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Tomorrow's Shepherds today - Introduction

Jesse has used our congregation as another case study for his Masters program. Over the next few weeks, we will publish this paper for us to be able to review and discuss. If you have any feedback, Jesse would love to hear from you.


When people think of leadership there are certain individuals and qualities that likely come to mind. Perhaps thought of are icons in the realm of military and politics such as George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, or sports legends like Tom Brady and Lebron James, or even courageous civil rights advocates like Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr. The characteristics they possess range from integrity and inspiring, to sacrificial and bold. It is not difficult to think of examples of leaders and their traits, but what exactly is leadership? Naturally, there are many different responses to this question, and interestingly, the understanding of the definition of leadership is shaped by the culture and events of the time in which the person answering lives. Furthermore, leadership manifests itself in many different arenas such as business, religious, geopolitical, athletics, family, and more. Since this is true, there really cannot be one specific definition. Here are some examples of how it has been defined.

In Leadership 2.0 it is described in a multifaceted way, “Great leadership is dynamic; it melds unique skills into an integrated whole” (Bradberry and Greaves 1). It is dynamic in that it involves many aspects. John Adair furthers this explanation in How to Grow Leaders by describing leadership as involving integrity, toughness coupled with fairness, humanity, confidence, humility, and courage (29). It is defined by others in the way of communication, “Leaders still communicate the facts, the information that is necessary to make and implement a decision. For this, leaders must be logical, suggesting that moving from where we are to where we are going is a needed, cogent, and doable change. But they must also constantly communicate the “why” that makes an action meaningful” (Pearce 1). Leadership and communication go handin-hand simply because if the people being led do not have a good sense of understanding as to what is going on, or do not feel valued, they will lose heart and lose respect for the leaders.

Many think of leadership in relation to the people they are leading. Leadership is an Art states, “The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers. Are the followers reaching their potential? Are they learning? Serving? Do they achieve the required results? Do they change with grace? Manage conflict?” (Depree 12). Even going back two centuries, President John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” (Hasan, “good leaders”). It is impossible to separate leadership from the impact leaders have on those under them. First and foremost, a leader must be concerned with those that he or she is tasked to lead.

Much more could be said about leadership in many facets of life; however, the purpose of this paper is to specifically address the area of church leadership and the development of such. The Bible is full of great leaders who did amazing things for God while impacting the lives of others in a major way. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, and Paul are but a few of those leaders mentioned in God’s word. Each individually led others in their generation, all the while fulfilling the will of God. With the establishment of the church the need for godly leaders did not change, it just changed form. No longer did God’s people rely on a patriarchal structure as they did during the life of Abraham. Abolished was the system of priests (as all Christians are a priesthood) that existed under the Mosaic covenant, but rather Christ established His church to be led by a group of men. Such men lead one congregation of people, and are referenced in Scripture interchangeably as overseers, elders, and shepherds. While certainly important and part of the role of the church leader, unfortunately, the “overseeing” or managing aspect can be looked at as the primary task. They are often viewed as one who “parcels out work, sets objectives, monitors performance, and fixes whatever is wrong” (Weems 86). Because they are leaders of people, whom the Bible describes at times as sheep, the term shepherd perhaps best defines who the church leader is and what he does. The church shepherd has been described as a leader who “knows each sheep by name; he nurtures the young, bandages the wounded, cares for the weak, and protects them all. A shepherd smells like sheep” (Anderson 4). Being a shepherd in the Lord’s church is a vitally important role which comes with great responsibility, and even involves the interaction of the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28ff.). In fact, if a church does not have these shepherds in place to lead them, then they are missing a necessary part of God’s design for His body. Paul wrote to Titus, who was an evangelist on the island of Crete, and told him that he was left there specifically to “set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). Simply put, a church is incomplete without elders. More than that, there is not the divinely appointed group to shepherd and protect God’s flock (Acts 20:28-30), or to keep watch over their souls (Hebrews 13:17).

While a church can do good things and perhaps even grow without elders, there is no way to deny the need, according to the word of God, for such leaders in the church. Therefore, in what way are churches preparing and training young men to become these necessary shepherds? There almost seems to be a wishful thinking of hoping that there might be some men who happen to end up with the qualifications needed to be a shepherd. However, “Men are not born with the ability to serve as an effective church leader. Neither do they automatically gain the experience necessary to meet the scriptural qualifications for elders… it seems evident the church needs to provide leadership training for its young men” (Moore 10). Many, if not most churches, do not have a system and plan for developing men to become biblical leaders.

The goal of this paper will be to discuss ways to overcome this glaring trend. For the purpose of this task, the Central North church of Christ in Perth, Western Australia will be used as the case study. There will be a breakdown of three major sections. In the first section we will specifically look at a description of the local leadership within the church, the previous and current approach to leadership development, and information related to a vision for the future of leadership development. Section number two will cover the first part of the design plan for developing a program within the church to prepare the next generation of leaders, specifically designed for the young men 13 through 30 years of age. Finally, the third section will address the second part of the design plan.

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