What does it mean to lead people?”

It’s Monday Grace!

Almost every day I read about someone who used his or her leadership position to use people and get what he or she wanted. Teachers and principals and counselors in the schools. Managers and supervisors in the workplace. And, yes, pastors and teachers in the church. Without regard for those they are supposed to lead, they manipulate and abuse people to satisfy themselves.

Some steal money. Some steal intimacy. Some steal time and energy and hearts. They believe in their own superiority and use their positions as platforms to lift themselves higher. They claim to be leaders.

But when did leadership become a position of privilege and power? I suppose almost from the beginning. You can certainly see it in the Bible records from the earliest times.

A man told about what he was taught by a guide on a trip to Israel. The guide said that shepherds always led their sheep. The shepherd walked in front and the sheep followed. The next day, as they traveled in their bus, they noticed a man driving a small flock of sheep. The sheep didn’t want to go where the man pushed them.

When the man pointed out the sight to his guide, the guide stopped the bus and asked the man what was happening. The guide explained to the man that he had just told his tourists that shepherds led their sheep.

“Oh,” the man explained, “I am not the shepherd. I am the butcher!”

Just because someone is in charge does not mean he or she is a leader. Some people are butchers of the people, rather than shepherds. The people exist for their use, they think. The people are expendable, unworthy.

It is particularly wrong and sad that this thinking has been a part of the church. If you read the letters of Paul, you see that it has been with us from the earliest days. But this is not the way our Master taught.

Under grace, we have one Leader. He calls some to be “undershepherds.” He gave some positions of service for the church, positions which some have seen as opportunities to exploit. But Jesus showed us what real leadership was about.

Jesus, the Lord God Almighty in human flesh, came to serve. He loved the people enough to suffer for them. He leads us by His suffering and His example.

He is the Good Shepherd, the Firstborn, the Prince, the One who is out in front doing battle for us. He made the way for us and paid the price. Although His position is Lord over all, He humbled Himself to lead us home.

Those who demand respect and privilege because of their position are not true leaders, whether they are in business, the home, or the church. They are users.

I know I should be thankful that I have never been able to see the “Pastor” position as one of power and privilege. The old joke said that the prayer of the congregation was, “Lord, you keep him humble, and we’ll keep him poor.” But maybe there is something good in that.

I have known many good pastors through my years in ministry, men who have sacrificed for their people without getting much in return. Sadly, I have also known some abusers. Preachers who seemed to think they were really God’s gift to the people. They felt they deserved more and more. Some of them took what they wanted, even to the point of adultery and theft.

But that’s not leadership. Those are not leaders, they are butchers.

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