The Shepherd Leader

February 07, 2010

Witmer's The Shepherd LeaderFrom “The Introduction” of The Shepherd Leader - Available this week!

“There is a crisis in the church!”  Books like this always begin by sounding an alarm. In this case it is a shepherding crisis, or should I say the failure to shepherd. There can be no better introduction to the subject than a “real life” scenario (details changed):

Cathy Williams, affectionately known to many as “Kate” was born on September 22, 1953.  In 1986, Cathy became a member of Covenant Church on the basis of her profession of faith and remained a member until her death on July 14, 2005. The death of Cathy Williams became a watershed moment in the pastoral shepherding ministry of Covenant Church. Coming out of a rebellious and loose lifestyle, Cathy made a profession of faith and actively participated in the life of the church. But then she began to fall into her old sinful habits. She abandoned the church and no one knew where she was; or at least no one cared to find out. Her name, however, remained on the rolls of the church, but just as a name. Shortly before her death, God placed Cathy back on the doorstep of Covenant Church. Pastoral interaction with the dying Cathy was too brief to confirm how she stood before God. In a cloud of uncertainty, Cathy was memorialized. She stood before the judgment seat to give account for her life, but before that same throne the undershepherds of the flock at Covenant must give account for this one lost sheep.
How many Cathys are there in your church? What is the leadership of your church doing to care for the people? What view do your leaders hold of their identity as leaders and, therefore, what they are supposed to do?  What is your view of the nature and function of leadership in the church? What is your congregation’s view of the nature and function of leadership in the church? The simple thesis of this book is, “The fundamental responsibility of church leaders is to shepherd God’s flock.” After all, the word “pastor” comes from the Latin word meaning “shepherd.” However, as you will see, shepherding is not merely the responsibility of those who are called to be pastors, but also of those who are called to be elders or its equivalent in our churches. In fact, you will see that “shepherding” is at the very heart of the biblical picture of leadership. Unfortunately, this emphasis is missing in many churches. Some years ago I attended a series of meetings designed to encourage leaders in our denomination. One well-respected pastor conducted a seminar on leadership and began by introducing us to the most important biblical metaphors for leadership. As he moved systematically through his list of biblical terms I kept waiting for him to mention the metaphor of “shepherd,” expecting that it was certainly going to be the next one listed. However, it wasn’t on his list at all! Conspicuous by its absence was the metaphor of “shepherd.” It should be no surprise that conspicuous by its absence in many of our churches is the ministry of shepherding leaders.

Therefore, though this is not a book on church polity it will challenge your thinking on the nature, function, and structure of leadership in your church. This is important because the failure to shepherd in our churches is the simple but dangerous result when church members and leaders fail to embrace this fundamental biblical model. For example, if the view of the church leader is that he is called to be a “shepherd,” those chosen to serve will be different than if the view of leadership is “decision-maker.”  Are the elders or leadership team a “board of directors” making decisions or is it a team of shepherds caring for the flock? The answer to this question will also have an impact on whether the primary qualification for your leadership team is corporate success and experience, or a shepherd’s heart. Obviously, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but what is the fundamental orientation of your leaders?


“It is both an honor and a privilege to be able to write a few words to introduce and commend this very important book. And there is a double bonus: this book is as readable as it is interesting. Not every study of the eldership is as well acquainted with the shepherding practices of the Nuss Besser sheep farm in rural Pennsylvania as it is with the pastoral care of the human sheep of Kidderminster during the remarkable ministry of Richard Baxter in seventeenth century England! This is an intelligent and informative book. Here exegesis and exposition provide a solid biblical foundation. So this is also a wonderfully practical, as well as instructive book. It underlines principles that ministers and leaders can employ in the specifics of their own church context, and provides workable suggestions about how to put them into practice. We need this desperately today when so many are “like sheep without a shepherd.” These pages have the potential to transform the way undershepherds together lead their flocks.”
From the Foreword
Sinclair B. Ferguson, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina

The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Z. Witmer,
ISBN-13: 9781596381315, P & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ