Leadership and Responsibility
Ezek. 34:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. 4 You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.
Whether secular rulers or church leaders, one carries on their shoulders the needs of those in their care. In this case Ezekiel was called to prophesy against them because they were not taking their responsibility seriously. Just as a good shepherd cares for their flock, so leaders are to lovingly care for those for whom they are responsible.
Responsibility included several factors. The sheep were to be fed, strengthened, healed, treated for their wounds, and the lost sought after.
But the leaders failed in their responsibility.
One of the greatest complaints I receive about spiritual leaders and pastors these days is that some seem to be in a maintenance mode. Week after week we may go through the motions, preaching, preparing the bulletin, having the regular programs but somewhere the passion is lacking. I believe passion is lacking because there is not a sense of responsibility for the people in our care. When there is a sense of responsibility then we will do everything possible to keep the flock together, and help it to grow.
This prophetic voice gives us some practical handles for leaders.
1) Feed the sheep. This must be done both physically and metaphorically. People need to have their physical needs met so that they can hear the word and be fed spiritually. To be able to feed people spiritually, the leader needs to be feasting on the word as well. We cannot share with people when we have nothing ourselves.
2) The sheep are to be strengthened. This means that there must be more than enough just to sustain the flock, but they need to receive enough nourishment that they are strengthened. Not just nourishment but also strength training. There must exercise and work-outs that help people develop their spiritual strength. Leadership must provide opportunities for this strength training to occur and self discipline is required to lead others in this direction.
3) Sick sheep are in need of a treatment plan for their healing. Diseases may creep in and begin to destroy the body from the inside out. There may not be any visible physical wounds but there is illness and disease. Jealousy, gossip, greed, selfishness — these are all illnesses that will destroy the body unless they find a cure. The leader is also a diagnostician — one who is able to discover the disease and then recommend the correct treatment. If the diseases are not dealt with and contained they will spread as a contagion and soon the entire flock will be infected and could die.
4) Being wounded is different from being sick. Wounds come when one has been under attack, not from disease, but from others or from the difficulties of life. One may have stumbled and fallen and hit a bad rock. The flesh is torn open and a wound exposed. Another may have experienced the destruction of a marriage and the gaping wound in their heart is almost more than they can stand. These wounds need the loving hands and care of their leaders. Wounds need cleansing, an ointment and then a dressing over the top so that they can heal. This is a process which takes time and intentional effort on the part of leadership.
5) One of my greatest concern these days is a lack of passion for the lost. There seems to almost be a passivity about those who don’t know the Lord. Somehow we imagine that if they want to know about the Lord they will come in our direction. But just imagine what it would be like to lose a child — to have a child get out of our grasp and become lost. You hear of the stories of those parents who become separated from their children at a theme park. Do the parents go on riding the rides and hoping that the child will simply show up at the end of the day? No! They stop everything that they are doing and all of their time and effort goes into searching for that little one. No one can be happy or settled until the lost one is found and back in their arms. In just the same way leaders are called to have the same passion for God’s lost children. We are to seek after them, searching high and low, diligent in prayer, until they are safely back home.
The children of Israel were facing their own demise because the leaders had ceased to function as true leaders of the flock. The church today is challenged to heed the words of the prophet. May those who are called to any leadership role — from Sunday School teacher to Ministry Leader to Pastor — heed the words. Shepherds — stop feeding yourselves and show responsibility for those in your care.
Lord, thank you for the reminder and lesson. Please help me to serve you faithfully today and every day. Amen.
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