In preparing for the leadership training I will be doing in Kenya, the Lord gave me a story that has relevance in our body. I shared this with my church. You may wish to do the same. Here it is.
Why are we here and why do we assemble? What is God’s purpose for the church and what is the role of leadership? Well, Jesus taught with stories, and I believe the Lord gave me a word-picture that really spoke to me. It may speak to you as well.
I look outside today and see snow—a stark reminder of the frigid winters in New England where I grew up. Oh, it makes me look forward to Spring all the more as I see the white symbol of coldness covering the landscape.
The snow and accompanying coldness also conjures up images of Narnia under the White Witch’s dominion. The deep freeze holding their world hostage as they awaited Aslan’s coming Kingdom.
The imagery made me think of the role of a shepherd and the response of the church. It made me think of the local body trapped in the wintery storm of this world, under Satan’s dominion. The shepherd eagerly seeks the Kingdom, and leads the church through the snow, carving a path in the frigidness. Yes, he is the one who gets snow in his boots, must expend the most energy, and feels the greatest burden for ensuring that the trajectory is right, the path is safe, and that no one is left behind in the cold. He listens to the vision given him from the Word and the Spirit, and guides with tender care, setting an example where and how to take each step. When he steps on thin ice, his foot gets wet, and he changes the trajectory to keep the others safe. When he approaches a steep incline, he walks around to gentler slopes. He pushes down the snow banks to clear the way ahead of the others.
Yet, a peculiar thing happens along the way. Others become unnerved at the shepherds leading. Some become envious of the presumed glory of walking in front. They fail to count the labor and sacrifice required of it. They assume the role upon themselves, choosing to latch onto the “glory” of position and fail to lead at all. Those who assume the role out of pride, envy or ambition fail to see the Kingdom vision—and lead people in dangerous paths or even in circles—sometimes claiming it is the Spirit’s leading.
Others choose not to walk at all, and build a snow fort, just big enough for the current membership, and with a wall tall enough to keep others that don’t look like them out. Yet others choose to make a snow man and go sledding to just enjoy the coldness of the world, failing to recognize that they are just sojourners in Satan’s wintery dominion. Yet, even others get in a snow ball fight, and decide to leave the path altogether—leaving a wake of disunity and pain.
The shepherd is careful to not carve the path and then double back and push the followers along it, claiming authority from above. Rather, he persuades them—edifying, encouraging, and yes, rebuking—with the Word in love, always putting the vision before them. For there will always be those who want to build a fort, those who want to play, those who leave the path, and aspiring shepherds who have a path of their own. It is an unnecessary burden to blaze the trail along the Lord’s trajectory and look back and see the four camps holding the sojourners on the Kingdom’s path back from the vision, yet, this is the lot of the shepherd.
The moral of the story—the vision—that is the Kingdom, is the destination of His churches. Understand that the church is sojourning together, towards that goal. The Bible admonishes to “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17) This is not mindless submission, but rather being persuaded by their wisdom, by their example, and by the Kingdom vision.