Lead Like a Shepherd: Lessons from Paul’s Farewell Address

Paul the Apostle was the equivalent of a serial entrepreneur. Instead of start-ups he funded churches. His letters in the new testament hold a treasure of leadership lessons. His farewell address to the Elders in Ephesus contains three lessons for anyone in leadership.

Background information

It was normal for Apostle Paul  to appoint Elders as leaders in each church. These pastors were responsible for the well-being of the spiritual flock. On his last visit Paul met with the Elders of the Church in Ephesus.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

Acts 20:25-31

Lesson 1: Leaders are appointed

Paul reminds the Elders that the Holy Spirit appointed them. Elders in a church are appointed once they meet character qualifications. Some of these traits are a product of the Holy Spirit. Paul looked for evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit in a candidate’s life.

In a company leadership is given by those in authority. It is a recognition that an individual yields influence and power. Sources of power vary across different organizations.

A man that desires to become an elder should evaluate his life according to the qualifications in 1 Timothy and Titus.  A person who wants leadership in an organization should know, understand, and agree with the company mission and culture.

Lesson 2: Leaders are shepherds

Shepherds are responsible for the well being of a flock. They create a safe environments for sheep. They feed, protect, and nurture a flock. Elders are shepherds of a congregation.  They teach, mentor, disciple, and support the spiritual flock.

Leaders in an organization are responsible for creating a space where people can exercise their skills and talents. They may shepherd people, projects, or even a process.

An elder must lead his family well before trying to lead a congregation. A person who wants to be in leadership should already be in the business of  creating safe environments for colleagues to grow long before a promotion.

Lesson 3: Leaders look out for wolves

Paul warned the elders of Ephesus of savage wolves. Wolves eat sheep. Elders were to keep an eye out for men that would want leadership to feed themselves instead of feeding the flock.  Instead of drawing disciples to the Good Shepherd, these men would draw disciples to themselves.

Leaders in an organization are responsible for identifying and affirming culture and values. Leaders point the spotlight to others instead of themselves.

Following these three leadership lessons a person can lead like a shepherd. They will produce environments were members of an organization can grow and thrive.



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