part 2

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“You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership. Because you learn how not to do it. And, therefore, you learn how to do it.” – Norman Schwarzkopf

With this quote in mind let us read Ezekiel 34 and learn from God’s judgment of bad shepherds of Israel. Our goal of course is to what God does not want in shepherds, and therefore what he does want.

Read Ezekiel 34:1-10 - Five contrasts drawn from this text between bad shepherds and good shepherds will show us what God expects of the spiritual leaders of his people ...

Bad Shepherds - Take advantage of the flock
Good Shepherds - Take care of the flock

Lynn Anderson wrote the story of his trip to Palestine: the tour guide was speaking of the way the good shepherd leads his sheep and he began to tell of a time when, as if on cue, a man same by chasing after a herd of sheep throwing rocks at them and whacking them with sticks. The guide got off the bus and chided the man saying, “I was just telling these tourist about the gentle shepherd who leads his sheep.” The man said, “You’ve got it wrong. I’m not a shepherd, I’m a butcher.” (See Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep)

When Israel demanded Samuel for a king, the prophet warned them about the corruption of power. He said that the day would come when a king would take their children and press them into his service. He would take their property and a tenth of their harvest and give it to his attendants. He would take what was theirs and use it for himself. The end result is that they would become slaves of the king (1 Samuel 8:10-18).

Last Sunday we noticed how our typical models of leadership do not fit the kingdom model. God allowed his people to have a king (even though it wasn’t his idea). But God redefined what a king over his people would be. He would be a shepherd who cares for the sheep, rather than a shepherd who consumes the sheep for his own benefit. It is one thing to be called out as a leader for the sake of others, it is another thing entirely to need to be a leader over others for your own sake.

When leaders need the position of leadership to gain power, control, or visibility for themselves, then they do not care much for the people who God want them to serve. Shepherds in God’s church are not called to use up the gifts and abilities of the people and to use the resources of the congregation in order to satisfy their own desires for control or recognition.

Colin Powell tells the story of his early days as an officer. After noticing that many of his men were being picked off by snipers, he order a set of flack jackets and outfitted his frontline scouts with them. It saved their lives. His only concern was saving their lives but he observed how the men became more loyal and appreciative of his leadership. He learned what was an old rule of leadership – take care of your people and they will follow you anywhere.

As you consider men who might serve as shepherds look for men that you would follow because they care for you more than themselves.

Bad Shepherds – Neglect the weak, sick, and injured
Good Shepherds – Nurture the weak, sick, and injured

One of the most humbling duties of church leadership is to strengthen the weak, heal the sick, and bind up the injured. Why? Because you become aware of your own limitation to help those in need. People are not easily fixed as one might fix a flat tire or leaky roof. Our weaknesses, sicknesses, and injuries are more than physical. But the good shepherd that cares for the sheep will nurture the weak, sick and injured. The key is care.

The bad shepherds that God judges were guilty of much more than human limitations. Their sin was that they just did not care. They abandoned the weak, sick, and injured – outright neglect. No leader is going to be perfect. And we know that no human leader can “fix” us – at least we ought to. But we all want to be met with someone who just cares. I recall a family meeting not too long ago when our shepherds asked you what you expected of them. One answer came very quickly: “When I am sick, I want you to pray for me.” And I think that statement would apply to a variety of situations.

Every Sunday our elders wait just for you in Room 100. They will pray for you, they will help strengthen you if you are weak, help heal you (spiritually) if you are sick, and bind up the injuries to your spirit. But call one of them, or all of them, if you need them.

And as you consider men whom you would name as shepherds, look for those that you would call on if you needed someone to strengthen you, heal you, or bind up your wounds.

Bad Shepherds - Overlook the stray and lost from the flock
Good Shepherds - Look for the stray and lost from the flock

Jesus told a set of parables (Luke 15) about things that were lost. A sheep, a coin, and a man’s son. The parable’s reveal God’s concern for the lost. You can see that concern in the Ezekiel text. It grieved God that his people were scattered and lost. And God stood in judgment of the leaders who did nothing to bring those lost sheep back into the flock. They just overlooked them.

Even a good shepherd, I am told, might lose a few sheep along the way. Sheep tend to wander off. Years ago when Karen and I were driving through Scotland we would often come around a country road and find a few wandering sheep just standing in the road. And it takes a while to get their attention to move.

All shepherds will have sheep wander away, the difference between a good shepherd and a bad shepherd is that the good shepherd will look for them, and the bad shepherd overlooks them.

As you consider men whom you would name as shepherds, look for those who would care enough to seek you out if you wandered away from the flock.

Bad Shepherds – Leave the flock as prey
Good Shepherds – Keep the flock protected

A good shepherd will go after a sheep because he knows the dangers to a stray sheep. When sheep wander off they become vulnerable. Not just from tourist motoring around the countryside, but from wolves and other predators who want to consume the sheep. Predators love to scatter the sheep. Wolves hunt in packs. They divide and consume. Scattered sheep are easy pickings.

Good shepherds keep the flock together. Do you see the comparison? One of the works of church leaders is the ministry of reconciliation. They are not representatives who are in a place of authority to “vote my way” or concern themselves with my interests. We must go to our church leaders and ask them to do the work of reconciliation. To aid us and lead us in building up the bonds of love, unity, and peace. (Matt 18). Otherwise, the scattered flock will be vulnerable to the predatory powers of this dark age – and they will be consumed.

As you consider men whom you would name as shepherds, look for those who keep the flock protected and keep the flock together. Look for the men who reconcile us to God and one another.

Bad Shepherds - Lead harshly and brutally
Good Shepherds - Lead like God leads

Why would a bad shepherd take advantage of the sheep, neglect the weak and sick, overlook the lost, and scatter the flock? Mainly because the bad shepherd has a character flaw. He leads harshly and brutally.

Lynn Anderson describes two distorted models of leadership: the cowboy and the sheriff. The cowboy drives the herd rather than leading it. He cracks the whip and yells and hollers to get the herd to go where he wants them to go. The shepherd leads through relationship. He leads the sheep to green pastures and quiet waters – he leads them to what is good for them. The sheriff carries a badge and enforces the law.

[Rookie police officer illustration]. The lesson is that the authority of office and badge and title will at best get you compliance, but at worst rebellion. Bad shepherds lead as if they are god, but Good shepherds lead as God leads them.

So how does a good shepherd lead as God leads them. Since God could not count on Israel’s shepherds, he vowed to be their shepherd. Learning from the Chief Shepherd ...

He leads the flock ...

  1. to peace. Under God’s care, the sheep are safe and protected. They can lie down. John 10:16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. [The work of reconciliation and the safety of God’s care]

  2. with justice. God vowed to keep the stronger sheep from overpowering the weak. Sheep will do that and a shepherd has to look out for the weak. For humans, that is called justice. In the church we follow the teaching of James 2. We do not show favoritism. We love our neighbor.

  3. to healthy living. We often think of elders as being responsible for sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is healthy teaching. It isn’t a set of rules, rather it is words for life. Jesus came to give us abundant life here and now (John 10:10)

  4. to eternal life. Good shepherd know that we are heading toward the day of the appearance of the Chief Shepherd. They have a vision of eternity that shapes our path even now.

As you consider men whom you would name as shepherds, name those who lead as they are led by God.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 14 January 2007

Like a Shepherd Lead Us
“Good Shepherds”
January 14, 2007

Learning from Bad Examples (Ezek. 34:1-10)

Bad Shepherds Good Shepherds
1. T_____   ___________ of the flock. 1. T_____   ___________ of the flock.
2. N_____________ the weak, sick, and injured. 2. N____________ the weak, sick, and injured.
3. O______________ the stray and lost from the flock. 3. L_____   ______ the stray and lost from the flock.
4. Leave the flock as p_________. 4. Keep the flock p___________.
5. Lead h__________ and b__________. 5. Lead like G__________________. (see Ezekiel 34:11-16)

Learning From The Chief Shepherd (Ezek. 34:11-16; John 10; 1 Pet. 5:1-4)

  1. He leads the flock to p____________. (Ezekiel 34:15)

  2. He leads the flock with j______________. (Ezekiel 34:17-22)

  3. He leads the flock to h________   ________. (John 10:10)

  4. He leads the flock to e__________________. (1 Peter 5:4)

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 14 January 2007

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