Know Your Sheep
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15 ESV). I’ve always loved Jesus words in John 10 as He compares the church to sheep and himself to the good shepherd. I like the imagery used here, the idea that Jesus is leading us like sheep actually makes me sleep easier at night. Throw in the beautiful imagery found in Psalms 23, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want, he makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters.” It makes me laugh when I think about the Apologetix song “Baa We’re Lambs.” No matter what this beautiful imagery brings sometimes comical, but always comforting images to mind when I contemplate the words of Jesus and the Psalmist.
I think one of the problems in leadership is that leaders often don’t view their congregations as people or sheep. Think about the image of the sheep for a second. Sheep are among the weakest of creatures on the food chain. They are hunted by wolves, they will follow anyone that will possibly lead them and they can be impossible to drive. They are harmless creatures, but for centuries we have domesticated them for the use of their wool and meat.
Now I’m not saying that we should consider our congregations or those who work with us in Ministry as weak or harmless. On the contrary, we need to respect them, look again at verse 14. “I Know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Our goal shouldn’t be to just lead a group of people blindly, without any knowledge of who they are or how they work, but to know how to lead them in the best way possible for them.
Recently one of our writers came to me with an issue. They weren’t able to get their articles up on the site and because of this had been dropping due dates. Mostly because they never thought about those respected due dates, because of this they wanted to step away from for fear of letting down those of us on the leadership team. Part of the problem though was with communication between me, who sets the schedule, and the writer. We talked on the phone and during that conversation I learned how this particular writer operated, how their mind worked. Once I got to know these things we were able to come up with a better system to let them know when their article was due.
When you know your congregation, when you know those who are working alongside you in Ministry then you have a better sense of how to serve them. You know what their struggles are, you know their gifts, talents and abilities and can more easily put them into places and give them tasks that will help them thrive. You are also in a better position to help them grow in their spiritual walks with Christ.
If part of the responsibility of Christian Leadership is to work ourselves out of a job then part of doing that is knowing those whom we are serving and who are serving alongside us. This takes time and it can get messy, but it is worth the time and energy put in especially when the fruit of a strong relationship is seen by those who do not know the Lord. Jesus knew his sheep, if we’re going to step up and take the lead should not we know ours?
One more thing, there’s an episode of Star Trek Voyager called “The Good Shepherd. In the episode Captain Jangway decides to start visiting the crew members that she never sees, the men and women that do the dirty work on a statship. Because of they got to know their captain they were more willing to follow her, more willing to take her orders. Taking the time to know those who we are serving with will do this, it will help them to trust us with decisions.
If you make no other resolutions in 2013, make one to know your sheep.