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Every Shepherd Needs a Shepherd

Blog: Every Shepherd Needs a Shepherd

By Scott Thomas, Acts 29 President

Every shepherd in the church needs a shepherd. In the last 12 months, many pastors experienced trials and suffering. Some were health-related, others were family issues: major organ transplant, the rebellion of children, psychological damage of an adopted child, marital problems and adult children walking away from the faith. These real issues devastated many of them for several months. Some pastor friends of mine dealt with their own cancer, loss of employment, abandonment by friends and betrayal by fellow elders, and others experienced serious financial setbacks. The pain is acute and in many cases, ongoing. I’m also aware of four suicides by pastors this last year. This is four suicides too many. The devastation on their churches and their families continues to impact the body of Christ in a major way.

The church leader is not exempt from problems. Quite frankly, the supernatural spiritual attack on church leaders is enormous and relentless. Who is shepherding the shepherds? Where do church leaders find their pastoral care? For many church leaders, they have no idea where to find help. Yet, they feel lonely, abandoned, and vulnerable. They deeply desire relationships, but are not sure if they want to share their heart’s deepest concerns with members of the body–even other leaders, so they suffer in silence and as a result are not able to properly shepherd the flock where they have been assigned to oversee. The whole church suffers when the leaders suffer.

In an attempt to help the church leaders, coaching has been introduced to help them to be more productive, strategic, effective, goal reaching and leadership developing. The focus has been on competence, consulting, and mentoring; guiding him or her into a more desirable future. While I think these things are important in their right context, I don’t think coaching, as we know it, is answering the fundamental issue among all pastors and church leaders, namely, who is the pastor to the pastors and who is shepherding their soul?

We can pay $300 an hour for someone to coach us to help make decisions as we lead the church in a myriad of facets: finances, technology, leader development, real estate, human resources and personnel decisions, legally operating a nonprofit organization, budgets, bylaws, buildings, boards, and Bible–if we have time.

What we really need is someone to shepherd our soul so that we can shepherd others by leading them to the chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. I am proposing that coaching for the church leader looks less like corporate consulting or pop psychology and more like biblical shepherding. I’m proposing that every church leader needs to obtain a shepherd coach to come alongside him with words of truth to encourage, admonish, comfort and help—words drawn from Scripture (and not just corporate world), grounded in the gracious, saving work of Jesus Christ, and presented in the context of a caring relationship. The Shepherd-Coach needs to probe the church leader for compulsive unbelief and selfish motivation, disobedience and sin and he needs to offer godly counsel and encouragement.

This only functions properly with a thorough understanding of the gospel, its central role in the life of a believer and its ongoing work to produce gospel transformation, healthy leaders, and churches reproducing for the glory of God and the good of the mission of Jesus Christ. If the Gospel is not at work in the life of the church leader, then it is highly unlikely that it will be at work in the life of the church.

For the rest of the month, we will explore these principles.

 

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Steve Timmis is a leader in The Crowded House Sheffield, and the Director of the Porterbrook Network, a training resource for mission. He is the Executive Director of Acts 29 and the author of Gospel Centred Leadership and I Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said That. He also co-authored Total Church and Everyday Church. He and Janet have been married for over 30 years and they have multiple children and grandchildren.