Church Leaders Devotion 14: Woe #2

Let's look at the second woe and see what we can learn and apply to our own Screen Shot 2020-03-07 at 10.21.32 AMleadership philosophy:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are" (Matthew 23:15).

God expects His leaders to focus on the important things—His priorities—and build His kingdom and not their own. The leaders in Jesus' day were doing the opposite. What's more, because they had not achieved any spiritual maturity and discernment themselves, they were incapable of leading anyone to a better place in the Lord. Therefore, their converts were actually farther removed from spiritual reality and thus incapable of entering into any kind of healthy spiritual place. 

God expects His leaders not to bind up followers under legalistic rituals and rules that limit their creativity and growth. They must teach followers how to apply general principles to the new challenges every generation must face so the Lord is honored and His purpose served and enhanced. This includes denominations, faith-based organizations, and even successful independent churches that delight in having their adherents follow the traditions they have honed over time rather than a life of the Spirit who leads and guides His followers into all the truth. 

What kind of leader are you? Are you setting people free or binding them up? Don't answer too quickly, but instead seek the Lord to help you understand what kind of evangelist you are—one who recruits people to a life of freedom or a life of bondage.

Church Leaders Devotion 13: Woe #1

Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus cleansed the Temple a second time and then gave a message to the leaders Screen Shot 2022-10-08 at 10.13.18 AM that described seven woes. While their content was negative, we can learn much of what the Lord wants from his leaders by learning from the bad example of Jesus' contemporaries. Here is the first of these seven woes, all addressing the issue of hypocrisy among the leaders:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to (Matthew 21:13).

Leaders are not to teach the people to be loyal to them or their church, but teach them how to be good citizens of God's kingdom, part of which is being involved in church life and work. What's more, God expected the leaders themselves to be seeking God's kingdom and to model Kingdom behavior to their followers. Otherwise, they were hypocrites in that they were teaching the people to do and be things they, the leaders, were not embracing in their own lives.

Do you understand the difference between the Church and the Kingdom? Are you yourself seeking to be a good example of a Kingdom leader and not just a church leader? Are you helping people understand what God requires of them to be good members of God's kingdom, which involves how they should behave not just in church but in home, business, and other personal transaction?

Leaders Devotion 12: Sacked

In Jeremiah 23:4, we read what the Lord did to the shepherds who were not caring for the flock as they should Screen Shot 2022-10-01 at 9.47.17 AMhave been doing:

"I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord"

God sacked or fired those whose performance did not meet His standards for care, which was simply to tend to the needs of the sheep. What was the outcome? The sheep would be cared for an no longer be terrifiedneither would they be missing in action.

Shepherds must make it their aim to help set God's people free from fear, not the fear of God if they do wrong, but the fear that is still part of their sin nature as seen when Adam and Eve hid from God because they were afraid. This fear includes fear of getting ahead of the Lord or taking action not in God's perfect timing, fear of failure, fear of the shepherd's disapproval, or fear of making a mistake. What can you do as a shepherd to help the people be freed from their fears?

You can model a lifestyle free from fear. You can remind the people (and themselves) that you too are part of God's flock and subject to the same fears, thus dispelling any notion that you as a leader enjoy a superior spirituality. You can teach the people that God isn't trying to trick or entrap them but wants them to know and do His will, and that they can be confident of His help to get the job done. If you do that, God will commend you for a job well done. If not, then the God who hired you and set you over the sheep can just as easily remove you, replacing you with someone who has a heart for the people.

Leaders Devotion 11: Gathering God's Flock

We continue this week with the word of the Lord as given to the shepherds of Judah through the prophet Screen Shot 2022-09-24 at 2.29.09 AMJeremiah:

"Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number" (Jeremiah 23:2-3).

What can we learn about a church leader's role from these two verses?

  1. Shepherds are to gather, not scatter the flock.
  2. God considers it an "evil" act for shepherds to do anything other than to gather and care.
  3. God will personally intervene on their behalf to gather them and bring them back.
  4. It's important that the shepherd provide pasture for the flock. In other words, the sheep need fed.
  5. God's goal for the flock is that it be fruitful and increase in numbers.

What else do you see from this passage concerning how you are to actively care for God's flock? What changes do you need to make in your leadership style to enable God's goals for the flock to be met? How can you achieve these objectives outside of Sunday worship services? Technology? Small group meetings? How can you reach more sheep of His flock?

Leaders Devotion 10: Caring For The Sheep Of His Pasture

When God chooses you to lead His people, it is a great privilege but also an awesome responsibility, not to be Screen Shot 2022-09-17 at 10.50.43 AMentered into lightly. It's not about what you can get as a leader, but God wants you to give that makes it a sobering and holy calling. Over the next few weeks, let's look at what the Lord had to say to His shepherds through Jeremiah, his prophet, in Jeremiah 23:

“'Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!' declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:1).

What does this tell us about the Lord and His expectations and relationship with His leaders?

  1. God is watching and evaluating our work.
  2. He likens what we do to tending a flock, so there is much to learn from actual shepherds.
  3. God expects His leaders to build up and not "destroy" His people. The relationship is to be one that gives life, not death or misery.
  4. Leaders are to gather people, not scatter them. and they are gathered unto God and not to the leaders for their benefit.
  5. The sheep are to be fed and cared for in God's pasturewhich involves His love, counsel, and Word.

Are you mindful that God is watching you as you care for His people? Are you ready to give an account of the work you have done? Is your leadership about Him and His people or about you, your title, and your ministry? What steps can you take to become a better leader and shepherd of God's flock?

What else do you see from this one verse? Feel free to post your comments on the site where it is posted.

Leaders Devotion 9: Be Close to the Herd

The writer of Proverbs said,

"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" (Proverbs 27:23). Screen Shot 2022-09-12 at 9.54.58 AM

While he was writing to actual shepherds, the admonition is also applicable to spiritual shepherds. You are to know your flock: who they are, what gifts they have, what motivates them, and what the Lord is saying to them. This doesn't mean you must know everyone by name but you must set up a system of care where someone knows their name, hears their heart, and can share with you what the Lord is directing them to do.

Your work as a spiritual leader cannot be done from the pulpit or carried out on Sundays only. It must be a concerted effort to serve the people by empowering them with the power God has given you to care for their needs and encourage their growth. What plan do you have in place to help you hear from "your flock"? Are you interested? Do you use technology and social media to do so? Who can you enlist to help you know the condition of your flock?

Leaders Devotion 8: Be An Example

Peter's few verses directed to leaders tell us much about his leadership philosophy that he obviously learned from Jesus: Screen Shot 2022-08-27 at 9.34.56 AM

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them . . . not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:2, 3).

The temptation to use leadership power to dominate others as overlords is powerful yet subtle. Some have become benevolent dictators for the good of others, but Peter's words are clear not to be fooled into thinking misuse of leadership position is acceptable for any reason. No one is immune from power's effects but Jesus provided a perfect example of selfless leadership that used power and position for the benefit of others. Therefore, Jesus is our model for leadership. We are to emulate Him as a model for others to learn from and follow. Peter's comrade Paul wrote, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). What's more, for someone to follow our leadership indicates we are close enough to the people that they can observe and even question our behavior they are to imitate.

Are you close to the people who follow you, close enough that they can learn from your example? Or has leadership power gone to your head, requiring others to keep their distance and address you by your title, affording you special honor simply because you are the leader? One way to tell if you're intoxicated with leadership power is to pay attention to what angers you. If people dishonor you and don't recognize your position and that makes you angry, then ask God to show you if you are walking according to 1 Peter 5 or to the standards of another leadership mentality.

Leaders Devotion 7: Be a Servant

Last week, we took our first look at Peter's instructions to the shepherds of God's church when he wrote,

"Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them . . . as God wants you to be; not pursuing Screen Shot 2022-08-20 at 8.57.58 AMdishonest gain, but eager to serve" (1 Peter 5:2).

The word for 'dishonest gain' in the KJV is translated 'filthy lucre,' which gives us the idea that Peter was referring to money, pure and simple. We as leaders are not to be looking for the monetary reward that can come when leaders manipulate or pressure to give money to God's work, which then goes into the leaders' pockets. Peter mentioned the antidote for this temptation and that is service. Servants don't do what they do because they get paid; they do what they do because that's their role and their master then provides for their needs, if that master expects them to survive and have the strength to carry out their duties.

Service isn't just being polite but it's using your leadership power and using it to empower others, to equip them to carry out the will of God for their lives. Are you a servant? Are you doing what you do as a job for money and benefits, or are you doing it as unto the Lord as His servant and trusting Him for your provision? How can you be a more effective servant? Keep in mind that even Jesus came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. You would do well to follow His example, making sure you have a good understanding of what it means to be a servant and how that should look in the role God has given you.

Leaders Devotion 6: A Willing Leader

We have looked at Paul's remarks to the Ephesian leadership, now let's examine what Peter had to say to church leaders Screen Shot 2022-08-13 at 11.13.22 AMabout their role and demeanor while overseeing His flock. Let's examine the first portion of his exhortation:

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing (1 Peter 5:1-2).

Peter did not exalt himself above the church leaders even though he was an eyewitness of Jesus' work and ministry. He acknowledged that his and their reward was yet to come, which let's us know that he is about to tell the leaders that their role is not one that leads to personal gain. Instead they are to care for and shepherd God's flock. They must not see their work as a burden or compulsory, for there is a big difference between work that is done because one has to do it versus work of those who willingly and enthusiastically choose to do it, accepting their call as a privilege, not a burden.

Are you willingly leading God's people? If so, are you exerting energy and creativity as you lead and care, or are you doing the minimum? Are you a disciple of Christ who happens to be called to leadership or do you see yourself and your work as elite, placing you above the people you shepherd? As we will see repeatedly emphasized in future studies, the call to leadership is not one of privilege but of self-denying service, through which you will share in the sufferings of Christ, the Chief Shepherd.

Church Leaders Devotion 5: Be On Your Guard

Paul delivered some sobering remarks to the Ephesian elders as he closed his sermon:

"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church Screen Shot 2022-08-06 at 8.01.32 AM of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! (Acts 20:28-31a).

Being appointed by the Spirit to be a shepherd of God's people is serious business and it is fraught with danger, for the temptations for leaders to care for themselves or to make themselves the center of attention are ever present. Paul warned that there would be attacks upon the flock from without and within and urged the elders to "keep watch" and "be on guard." They were to "be shepherds," and not those who do what they do for money or prestige for they were dealing with sheep purchased with the blood of Jesus.

Are you shepherding God's flock? Do you know the sheep? Are you keeping watch? Are you careful to lead the people to Jesus and not to yourself? Do you work at maintaining correct doctrine so you won't "distort" the truth? Perhaps you want to make this shepherd's prayer a part of your leadership arsenal of prayers:

Lord, I acknowledge that I didn't choose to lead, but was appointed by the Holy Spirit to be an overseer in the church of Jesus Christ. Help me to lead and care for the flock in a way that's pleasing to You. Remind me that it's not about me, but about the people. Keep me from any attitudes or practices that would cause me to neglect or abuse the sheep. Protect me from doctrinal weirdness or error, and give me discernment to recognize dangers for the flock (and myself) when they appear. I submit myself to Your oversight and the authority of Your word as I exercise oversight for others. Amen.

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