Our Elder team at Goshen is talking a lot about how to better care for our congregation. – And we’ve tried hard to begin implementing a “shepherding” plan – largely modeled off of the ideas of one of my mentors at WTS, Tim Witmer.
We’re starting something really simple. Each elder is calling a church family and really simply, without any hidden agenda, asking how we can pray for that family.
What’s fascinating is that act all by itself, is a powerful form of leadership. Witmer calls it “micro-leading”. Most people think of leadership as something that happens in a boardroom with ramifications broadcasting widely, but I’ll bet if you really think about it, some of the things that have changed your life the most were one on one conversations.
Even a statement as simple as “how can I pray for you?” – leads people – to believe that prayer is important, that they should look to God for help – etc.
Witmer argues that one of the most influential thing that Christian leaders can do is to be “examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). This is the most important leadership function that an elder exhibits. Failure here sabotages the rest. This begins by being an example of Christlike character so that you can confidently say with Paul, “follow me as I follow Christ” (see 1 Cor. 11:1). What are the qualifications to serve as an elder in the church? Paul makes it quite clear in 1 Timothy 3:2–7 that the focus should be on godly character. If you read the classic “elder” requirement text, only “able to teach” relates to ministry skill. All of the other qualifications clearly reflect the importance of godly character. It can be said with confidence that grace-generated integrity is the leader’s most important asset. This is undoubtedly the reason that in his address to the Ephesian elders, Paul said, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28). Paul understood that it was essential for the elders to engage in self-protection and self-care of their godliness in order to be effective as protectors of the flock.
How do we lead people?
- Lead by Example in Your Relationship with Christ
Witmer says that we “must remember that you are a sheep, a follower of Jesus. This level addresses the matter of personal spiritual formation and growth. It must be clear to the flock that you know Christ personally and are growing in that knowledge.”
- You must also be committed to feeding personally on the Word.
- Do you long for the pure milk of the Scriptures, or are you failing to be fed through your own personal neglect?
- Are you excited about the impact that the Scriptures are having in your own life, or are you in the “shredded wheat” (dry but nourishing) stage?
- Is it clear to the people that you look to the Lord to lead you in your daily life and in the larger decisions that you are called upon to make?
- It should also be clear that you are submissive to the appropriate authorities in your life provided by the Lord for your protection.
If you are too busy to cultivate these fundamentals of the Christian life, you cannot be a good example to the flock. If you are too busy to cultivate the Christian life in this way, you are too busy!”
- Lead by Example as You Shepherd Your Family
The Scriptures are clear first of all that this is a basic qualification for leadership in the church. Paul wrote of those who would lead, “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Tim. 3:4–5). Church leaders must lead by example in family living.
- Lead by Example in the Ministry of the Church
A church leader should be a godly example exemplary in the commitments that are expected of any member, supporting the worship and work of the church to the best of his ability.
Leading people isn’t complicated, or easy. But it starts by doing what every Christian is called to do – follow Jesus, the great shepherd.