My Dear Parishioners,
Every Fourth Sunday in Easter-tide we observe as Good Shepherd Sunday, no doubt so -called because of the Gospel reading appointed traditionally for that day, namely St. John Chapter 10, where in verse 11 it says - “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” This year in the Revised Common Lectionary at verses 27-28 of that same Chapter we also find these words: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
This focus on shepherding brings into bold relief the whole notion of leadership, and at the same time discipleship has to be taken into account, as these two topics go hand in hand - you cannot have one without the other. Every leader has to be a learner; every leader has to be disciplined, and these are the root ideas behind the concept of ‘discipleship’.
So it goes without saying that a true leader is like a shepherd in that they both have followers. If you are a leader in name only, it will not take you long to get frustrated and demotivated, because no one will follow your leadership in the long term. Some people may follow you initially out of curiosity, loyalty or commitment, but eventually this will wear off and
you will be left on your own. Leadership is something to which we are called by God and it is something for which God equips us. Taking up leadership inside of God’s Church without any reference to God (outside of God’s will) is dangerous both for ourselves and for those we are meant to be leading. God chooses leaders who have a heart to do his will. In fact, God’s leaders need to be single-mindedly committed to his will as they understand it. Double-minded leaders gain few worthwhile followers.
But to do what is right as a leader will cost us something, because it will usually mean that we will have to deny ourselves in some area of life to meet the needs of others.. Leadership involves a competition then between meeting the needs of those we lead and meeting our own personal needs, and we must therefore be willing to absorb or pay this cost before we take up any form of leadership.
Our God wants love to be the chief motivation for all our actions. For this to be possible, we need to allow the love of God to enter our life and to permeate every corner of it. God’s love can be relied on, because it never fails, and consequently we can base our life with confidence on it. Love also covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). People are often difficult to deal with; therefore, unless our motivation to lead them is based on our love for God and for them, we may find tat it decreases as the difficulty of our leadership increases. Labour without love tends towards legalism and harshness, and it encourages striving, all of which are
disastrous to our Christian walk, because they dry us up and sap our motivation. It is also important to know God’s love experientially.
Our Lord Jesus wants disciples not decisions, and when we accept him as Lord of our lives,
we can no longer do just as we please. If we believe in a discipleship without cost, we are going to have a rude shock, because true Christian discipleship can involve great cost to ourselves. So many new Christians are demotivated in their Christian walk and a vast number even drop out all together, because they hear a gospel that does not mention suffering or cost. So when this situation arises they are totally unprepared for it, and it causes them to fall (John 6:66). Jesus taught us first to weigh the cost before committing ourselves, and we need to make sure that those people with whom we share the gospel, know the cost of that to which they are going to commit their lives. Our style of leadership is therefore the key.
But the key to salvation resides not so much in our belief that we are saved, but more so in our belief that we are loved by God. If we know that we are loved by a loving God, then we will know that we can trust him and entrust our life into his hands, whatever the cost.. Under
-standing this truth is essential, because it enables us to accept the cost of discipleship. If Christianity costs us everything, it will be the most important thing in our lives.
With all good wishes and prayers Archdeacon Emeritus