Cattle or Sheep?

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A friend recently described a leadership style that sounded kind of “right” from a secular perspective however. from a Biblical perspective, it wasn’t lining up for me.  The thing is, this leadership style has been repeatedly modeled in the church….I’ve seen it over and over, in leaders who grew up in “church” and especially in leaders who grew up at pastor’s kids (the ole pks).  The idea is that as a leader you cannot be “familiar” with or be “friends” with people you lead.  There was a time in my life when I would have gone along with this to some degree. 

There are several things that can happen in this type of situation.  1. Pastors and leadership will develop an “us vs. them” mentality rather than creating an environment where everyone is on the same team working toward establishing the Kingdom. 2. Pastors and leaders will feel increasingly isolated.  3. The church will begin to revolve around the pastors and leadership rather than around Jesus and His Kingdom. 4. There is an attitude established that “leaders” or pastors are somehow “better” than everyone else. (think pedestal – Jesus shed His blood for everyone equally…He did not shed “special blood” for “special people”…we are all the apple of His eye.)

I may have written about this before.  The thought continues to linger.  Cattlemen drive cattle.  The get behind them and urge them in the direction they want them to go.  Sometimes, they use a whip.  Shepherds lead.  Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice, they know me and they follow me”. 

How does shepherding sheep look different from driving cattle ?  As leaders we cannot use secular tactics, such as “driving” or “commanding” people to do what we want them to do.  If we want people to do something we must start doing that thing.  You demand that people serve more…if you want them to serve then start by serving.  Want more prayer at your church?  Start praying.  Want people to fast?  then fast.  Want people to worship?  You worship. 

This principle works on many levels.  In my life, there have been people at times who wanted to mentor me.  This principle works with mentoring as well.  Rather than sit around and tell people what they are “doing wrong” or having lengthy counseling sessions…show them what to do right.  Many of the people who wanted to mentor me have mentored me but not in the way they think.  They have demonstrated something negative and I’ve prayed, “God, please help me NOT to do that.”. 

One example is  a woman I attended church with a few years ago.  She prayed with me at a Sunday night service and spoke a beautiful prophetic word over my life.  Because I didn’t buckle and fall down she decided that I didn’t “receive” the word so she added a few of her own opinions.    Her opinion of me wasn’t all that great but I knew that it came from a place of jealously and pride.  My tendency with any prophetic word is to pray about it and if it seems “off”, I shelf it.  Some words can just be trashed though.  I prayed and still pray that when I minister to others, I will not edit, add, or delete anything God is saying.  So she actually mentored me, in a way.

People always want to “direct us” or “polish us” according to who they think we should be.  Okay.  I’ve done that.  What I have found is, it doesn’t work. 

Why do the sheep follow the shepherd?  Because they know him.  They have spent time with him.  They know his voice because his voice has been with them in the dark hours.  THE SHEEP HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SHEPHERD.  They follow because they know his heart.  They follow because they trust him.  They follow because he feeds them and leads them to green pastures and calm waters.  They follow because he is their friend. 

The past few nights a friend of ours has come over to visit.  I love “visiting”.  Her name is Esther and she is an amazing woman.  She is real.  She makes me laugh.  She loves Jesus.  I don’t spend time with her weekly but she has mentored me in many ways.   

I met Esther’s mom, Sister Mary Strain, long before I met Esther.  I fell in love.  Sister Mary was one of the most amazing women of God.  She was “elderly” when I met her about 10 years ago.  I met her when the women’s group at my sister’s church invited me to speak.  When I shook her hand after the service she gave me a “Holy handshake” (you know the ones….there is a little blessing passed along).  Although, I wouldn’t say she was a rich woman (maybe she was…she was certainly rich in spirit), she gave me a check for $100.  At the time, that was a serious blessing.  She was like that; a blessing wherever she went to everyone she met. Every time I had a chance to speak to Sister Mary, she had something positive to say.  In fact I would say she exude joy although she was not a “silly” person at all.   She attended a women’s Bible Study with us at one point and she gave us some good marriage advise.  I met Esther a few years later.  My sister, Jenny had been telling me about Esther for some time.  I wouldn’t say our relationship “took off”.  It has developed over the years.  You see, Esther and her husband tried for over 10 years to start a family (they have two boys).  She has an incredible  testimony (which I think I posted in a previous blog).  So when I had a miscarriage last year, she called me.  It is hard to know what to do (call or not to call) in that situation.  There were several well-meaning people who said the “wrong” thing.  I had two friends who spoke the right words at the right time…Esther and my friend Kendra.  When I get out to Big Spring, we get together.  We play a game of Bannanagrams (which they way too good at….I didn’t win a single game this time), eat some chocolate and laugh until we almost cry.  Tonight she made me laugh so hard.  Then she turned it all around on me and told me she had been feeling for a while that she needed to pray for me.  Esther, you can pray for me anytime.  I see so much of Sister Mary in her lovely daughter.  Her prayers are sweet, genuine, real and I could feel the heart of Jesus.  This woman who has taught me so much about handling loss without losing faith, parenting and being a godly friend…yep, you can mentor me any time and so often you do while we are hanging out playing a game of Bananagrams.  And I always learn some new words.

Sister Mary never tried to “drive” anyone to “do the right thing”, she showed us.  She showed her own daughter.  Her daughter has been showing us.  Why would I want an “elderly” woman to mentor me?  She didn’t write a book (that I know of although she was a living epistle read of all men).  She didn’t do any public speaking that I know of.  Why?  Because I hear my Shepherd’s voice when she speaks, I know that voice and I want to hear more. 

If you are a leader, think about your actions…are you driving, commanding, ordering, and telling?  Or are you doing what you want to see others doing, speaking as Jesus would speak and allowing others to follow you?  Walk where you want your followers to walk…lead the way.

Remember, if you treat people like cattle they will behave like cattle.

One last thing….Esther says that Dr. Pepper and cheese nips are redneck wine and cheese.  (Just had to get that in there, Esther). 

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One thought on “Cattle or Sheep?

  1. Esther W

    Hey, Casey!

    Okay… you had me in tears on this one, right up until the Dr Pepper & Cheese Nips comment. Ha!

    You probably don’t realize how you’ve encouraged me with this blog. The past few months (since Mom’s death) have been a struggle for me.

    Thanks for the evenings at Jenny’s – I needed them and hope there are more to come!!

    Thanks for writing.

    Love you!

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