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To lead or not to lead…

16April2012

16APR12 0700

Please note, the ideas that follow are not always popular and have caused the author grief over the years.  The thoughts that follow are strictly of the author and do not reflect on the blogging team of CCD.

To lead or not to lead that is the question… As a newly minted pastor I had a mentor (as all new pastors should – and as most of us old timers should too).  The congregation I was serving was struggling along trying to find their way – they were looking at this young 27 year old kid, fresh from seminary, for leadership.  I was younger than my church council president’s grand children and they were looking to me to lead them.

I was lost, I was scared, I had been told for 4 years that my leadership style would cause conflict in the parish.  My mentor came down and took me to lunch and said two important things.  1) To lead or not to lead that is the question – if you choose not to lead, someone MUST lead and they may not lead where you prayerfully and lovingly believe that God is calling this parish.  2) You were called to this divine office for a reason – all of you, not just the parts that seminary professors and candidacy committees deemed good.

I led, the only way I knew how, the way I was wired and the way I was shaped in the U.S. Army.  I didn’t seek to build consensus, I asked for thoughts and opinions.  I didn’t waffle, I started out in the direction I felt called to go.  I didn’t beg and plead, in as gentle a way as I could I said, “Let’s go.” They followed, slowly, sometimes begrudgingly, but after awhile they began to trust me as I showed them that the direction we were going was safe, was positive, was even fun.

Somewhere in these past 20 years, whether just from the daily grind – whether from alligators chomping at my feet, legs, and yes even my butt when there was enough butt left after someone chewed it off – whether from fatigue and burnout – whether from fear – I lost my voice, I lost my courage, I lost my way.

Years ago I read an article by LTC  (RET) Dave Grossman entitled “On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs” – I was told in seminary that we were called to be shepherds, but I am surely not a shepherd – being a shepherd causes a very important part of the ME that was called to ministry to starve – I am a sheepdog.  I am former Army, I come from a military family, I am a firefighter, I am a sheepdog and for me to be effective in ministry I need to remember not only WHOSE I am, but WHO He created me to be.

Who He created me to be was a sheepdog – one who listens to the Good Shepherd, one who protects the sheep.  I was thinking today as I watched The Best Ranger Challenge about taking my oath as an officer in the United States Army – I promised to protect the Constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic.  That is the role of the sheepdog – to protect, to guard, to defend, to walk into the darkness, to go into the burning building, to head towards the wolf.  For many in the Church we look for enemies outside, while perhaps the greatest enemies are fear and anxiety and wolves – inside the perimeter.  For me, being a sheepdog is one who follows the Great Shepherd, listens to his call – his whistle – his command, and then helps to move the sheep, to herd them where Christ leads them.  While at the same time, watching and listening for the wolf, the fear, the anxiety and addressing it.

I have been reading a lot on leadership, some of the myriad of idiotic books that line seminary bookstore shelves that often come from a position of fear.  Mainline fear of members leaving, of dwindling numbers of resources.  Then I was reading again during Lent about Jesus “setting his face to Jerusalem.” James and John didn’t like it, Peter surely didn’t like it.  They begged, they pleaded, they argued – and Jesus traveled in the direction He was being called to follow.  There wasn’t debates or votes or argument – there was Jesus, leading – listening to disciples, crowds, family, loved ones, followers – but the one voice he followed was his Abba.

Please understand, I am not calling for a return of Herr Pastor , ones who lead by saying, “This is what we are doing because I said so and I’m the pastor. ” That is a dictatorship, not leadership.  But I am calling for leaders to leave behind, “Can’t we all just get along” leadership styles as well.  Find YOUR style, find YOUR voice, find where God is calling you to go – and LEAD.

As for me, I’ll be the one patrolling the perimeter – listening for the whistle of the Great Shepherd – and waiting for the howl of the wolf.

Brobston @ Castle Church Door

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 16April2012 08:55

    Great thoughts. Good wrestling. I live under the mantra that I am not a leader–I am a follower. A follower of Jesus. Why would anyone follow me if I’m leading myself. But, if I’m following the Good Shepherd than others might come along for the journey. Follow me as I Follow Jesus… Thanks Brobston!
    SMN

  2. Fred Hodges permalink
    16April2012 09:04

    I have been calling myself a sheepdog for years. I am not the Good Shepherd, I’m not even an ok shepherd. I do some of the work of the shepherd, but only at his bidding. I also need the love and nurture that only the Shepherd can provide.
    When I ask someone to follow me, it is only in that I am following Jesus. If I’m not, then they should tap me on the shoulder and point in that correct direction and say, “hey, we’re headed this way!”

  3. Mary Beth Smith-Gunn permalink
    16April2012 09:17

    Another reality of being the sheepdog is that tireless acuity of senses – dogs are much more perceptive to scents, sights, sounds than many creatures – using those finely tuned senses in leadership helps often to determine predatory behavior, lame discipleship, and decaying corpses in the field of ministry. I like the image because I too struggle with consensus seeking and remaining faithful to the vision/call I believe God has placed at the forefront of faithful “pastoring”. Pastormom

  4. 16April2012 17:57

    The sheepdog also covers the broad territory, often under adverse circumstances, and finds the weak, injured or lost sheep. Sometimes the sheepdog will stay near the sheep and simply howl for the shepherd. At other times the sheepdog will agitate the lost sheep so that they begin to move toward the shepherd (often because they are more afraid of the sheepdog than they are of whatever had them paralyzed).

    It all is part of the process of being drawn into God. Sometimes we are the lost ones, sometimes we are the ones finding the way, and sometimes we are the ones welcoming the lost and wounded ones home.

    Thanks for your posting!

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