A Shepherd's Love

"Love makes the world go 'round," goes an old song. But does it? Really? You wouldn't know that from reading and hearing the news headlines and social media posts.

If love were to make the world go around, it would need to be something more substantial than romantic love to keep the world turning on its axis.

Some popular examples of a more substantial love are Mother Teresa with her work in India and St Francis of Assisi known for great love as expressed in his prayer.

But who was their role model? Jesus, of course. He is the personification of love—literally (John 1:1, 14; 3:16; 1 John 4:8).

Love, feed, lead

I talked about grassroots leadership in a previous post as an illustration of the style of leadership we see in Jesus and of three words that summarize the role of a pastor.

Those three words are—love, feed, and lead. These can apply to great leadership in all levels and roles but the focus of

Poimen Ministries

is primarily pastoral leadership.

In this post, I want to focus on the love of a shepherd in following the example of our Chief Shepherd, Jesus. I’ll use the four letters of this word as an acrostic to describe a shepherd’s love.

L-o-v-e

A lot's been said and written about this short, four-letter word but I want to look at each letter as it represents the leadership of Jesus and the love of a shepherd.

I won’t get into the four different words for love in koine Greek since that’s been covered many times by others. I want this to be of practical value—useful to anyone in a role of leadership but especially for pastors.

Here is a summary of the four qualities of a shepherd’s love for God’s people—

Love is the mark of a true leader in God’s kingdomWe’re called to be overseers of God’s people not lords over themPastors and leaders need to value and respect the people of GodGodly leaders empower, enable, and equip God’s people to serve the Lord

L–

I originally saw the words love, feed, and lead based in John 10:1-18, where Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd.

Jesus expresses what He means by being the Good Shepherd in verse 11—

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Of course, most of us immediately see this as Jesus’ reference to His sacrificial death on the cross. But there's more to it than that.

The most basic call of discipleship in Matthew 16:24 makes it clear we are to die to our self if we would follow Jesus. Jesus extends this idea to leadership when He tells the disciples—

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."(John 15:12-13)

"L" stands for love—the love Jesus demonstrated and called us to show—the love of a shepherd. Love is the mark of a great leader in God's kingdom—someone who is willing to lay down their life for Jesus and for others.

Love is the mark of a great leader in God's kingdom

O–

The love of God is spelled out for us in the well-known text of 1 Corinthians 13. It's also the natural product of the fruit of the Spirit in a believer (Gal 5:22, 23).

This type of love is also seen in the way Jesus called, led, and trained His followers. It wasn't by compelling or commanding them to obey but through humble leadership.

Jesus was a servant leader as He demonstrated on the night He was betrayed and challenged the disciples to lead the same way (John 13:12-17)

Jesus reminded the apostle Peter this when Jesus restored him after Peter had denied the Lord three times. (John 21:15-19). But Peter still questioned the Lord and was reminded that our first priority is to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus (John 21:20-22).

Peter passed this same lesson and admonition on to those he discipled as leaders. He exhorted them to "shepherd the flock of God..., not domineering over [them]..., but being examples to the flock." This is found in 1 Peter 5:1-5.

So the "O" stands for oversee. Godly leaders are not to be overbearing or domineering as lords. We are to care for and guide people as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, did with His followers.

Godly leaders are not to be overbearing or domineering as lords

V–

When a godly leader understands their power or authority is based in an unselfish love and oversight like that of Jesus, they value people.

Over the years, many churches have undervalued people, especially their volunteers and part-time staff. They undervalue them by taking them for granted which is a great disrespect for them and the Lord.

Too often I hear of people who get burned out serving in a church or ministry and are left hanging in the wind as others take their place. This should not be. Nor should this need to be explained.

We need to see people the way Jesus saw them, as sheep who need a shepherd (Matt 9:36). This is the heart of Jesus—hear what He says—

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”(Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

"V" is for value. Any smart leader at any level, but especially godly ones, will value people, especially those who volunteer their services.

Many churches have undervalued people by taking them for granted

E–

One of the simple ways to value people is by empowering and enabling them to do what they are to do. Many in roles of leadership think they need to keep people under control but this is not how we see Jesus leading people.

This brings us back to the earlier nature of the love we are to have as we lead people, a love that lays itself down for others.

Do we want others who serve under our leadership to succeed? Do we want them to do well? Then we need to find ways to empower and enable them to do so—that is what means to equip them for service in the Body of Christ.

This is to be a basic role of all leadership in the church, and it makes sense for any role of leadership. The apostle Paul tells us that God gave gifts so the leaders could empower and enable those they lead.

This is what we're told in Ephesians 4:11-13, and the result is enormous and beneficial to all and honors God in the process. As it says in verse 11—

for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ

"E" reminds us that good, godly leaders empower and enable God’s people—equipping them to serve the Lord within the church and beyond the walls of the church.

A simple way to value people is by empowering and enabling them to do things well—whatever their role is and however they are gifted by God.

Godly leaders empower and enable God’s people

A shepherd’s love

L-O-V-E—

An unselfish love concerned for the welfare of God’s peopleA love expressed by overseeing God’s people without being overbearingA love that values and respects people for who they are in God’s eyesA love that empowers, enables, and equips people to serve as God leads

This is the love of a shepherd for God’s people—following the example of Jesus our Chief and Good Shepherd.

Next I'll take a look at a shepherd’s responsibility to feed God’s people as God’s leaders in the Body of Christ.

This is more or less a continuation of some previous posts—

People need leaders

Be a Shepherd Not a Sheepdog

How Do We Follow the Example of Our Good Shepherd?