The Question Behind the Question
November 22, 2022
Do you need a title to be a leader? Do you need to be elected or appointed to a role or position to be a leader?
In this third episode of this miniseries, explore the question behind the question of leadership. In this episode, we’ll look to scripture that points to leaders as shepherds, explore the role of a shepherd leader, and how it contrasts with many images of leadership today.
This miniseries the question behind the question seeks to explore how Christian leaders address, guide, and lead others to the questions that we are facing today.
Often the question that is verbally asked is not the question that needs to be addressed. In this final episode of this little mini series, we explore the question behind the question about ego and humility in leadership.
The Question Behind the Question of Ego and Humility
The definition that we use for leader is from Brené Brown:
A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.
A Leadership Crisis or an Ego Crisis?
We have a leadership crisis now. Do you agree or disagree? Before you answer, consider the following:
- We may need to develop leaders or help people understand their gifts and graces.
- We may also need to encourage people to lead.
- There may be a need to define or redefine leadership.
We don’t have a leadership crisis. We have an ego crisis. There are people who want to lead but don’t necessarily wanna follow Jesus.
We’re seeing people who want to be in positions of power seek leadership roles. Often this is to get their way or have their agendas pushed forward. Frequently they are not in alignment with what Jesus is inviting us to do or who Jesus is inviting us to be – even in the church.
That’s the reason it’s described as an ego crisis.
I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.
4-5 When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for—
God has had it with the proud,
But takes delight in just plain people.
6-7 So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.
The Shepherd and the Sheep
One of the views of leadership is that of a shepherd, but here’s a question, “Are shepherds leaders?” Could it be that shepherds might ask different questions than most of the leaders that we see today?
Here are a few additional questions that emerge from 1 Peter 5:
- Is a shepherd a leader?
- When you consider leadership, is it about the shepherd or the sheep?
- Is leadership about positional authority or serving?
- Are the desired qualities of a shepherd leader humility or strength?
The Question Behind the Question
Often leaders ask, “How am I going to lead?” But that’s not the way of a shepherd. The shepherd isn’t thinking, “How can I be a shepherd?” The shepherd is thinking, “How can I best look after these sheep?”
So the focus of the Good Shepherd is not only on his or her own qualities, but on the needs of, and the potential dangers for those that they’re looking after. So when Peter makes the point in verse two, don’t think about your own profit, but rather about the needs of the flock, the question being raised is, “How can I care for the sheep first?”
Being a Shepherd Leader
If you want a tip on being a shepherd leader, start here: Be humble. Second tend to their needs. So whether you view the shepherd as a leader or a shepherd as the one who is serving, we see how Peter has learned from Jesus what it means to be a shepherd.
1 Peter also gives us clues when we read, “Don’t Lord it over them. Be an example.” There is a sense here that getting to know the people, who they are, what they love and fear, what makes them give their best is related to how the shepherd leads. So do you hear what’s happening?
The shepherd isn’t focused on him or herself. The shepherd is clothed with humility and focused on the sheep.
Jesus, The Good Shepherd
Jesus brings out a virtue that still seems odd to many today. The Good Shepherd we read about in the New Testament is, of course, Jesus. We see Jesus as the shepherd. You might say, Jesus is:
- the chief shepherd who will reappear when heaven and earth are brought together at last.
- the model, the standard by which all other shepherds are to be judged.
- an example who draws heavily on the biblical traditions about God’s desire to shepherd his people Israel.
And in the rural economy that was so prevalent, it’s not surprising that this is one of the standard images that we see in scripture.
Shepherd Leaders Care for People
Could it be that leadership begins with relationships? The focus is on the care for people. Could it be that we need leaders who deeply care about the people that are entrusted to their care? Leadership is not a position. The role of leader doesn’t depend on the position one holds. It depends on the relationship one has. That’s where we’re people who care about equipping people to serve in ministry, drawing out their strengths and gifts. A shepherd is one who’s committed to Christ to living out the gospel devoted to prayer and searching the scripture. Or what if a leader cares for people by serving as a guide, connecting people with the community, and seeking to understand the hopes and dreams of a community?
What if the Shepherd cares for people by sharing and listening and communicating a vision that others can contribute to and find their place in and give life to? The question behind the question isn’t, “How can I lead?” The question behind the question is, “How can I best look after these sheep? How can I best care for these people? And maybe the question before that is, “Who are the sheep God has asked you to look after?”
God’s Economy of Leadership
In one of the parables of Jesus (Luke 15:3-7) is to care for the sheep. In God’s economy, you’d leave the 99 and go look for the one that’s lost. In God’s economy, the shepherd knows the sheep can call them by name, and the sheep recognize the shepherd’s voice. All of those things imply relationships. So again, the role of leadership isn’t based upon position of authority. The question behind the question is, “Are we related to the people entrusted to our care in such a way that that relationship actually gives direction to our leadership?” Explore many of the examples of leadership we see today and it’s not God’s economy being exemplified. It’s ego.