Growing up in southern California in the 1960s and 1970s certainly had its perks. You can picture them – clear skies, the Pacific Ocean, nearly perfect weather year-round, and you guessed it, Disneyland. Walt saw his vision realized as one “land” after another was designed and erected. It would eventually attract children of all ages to a day of fun and adventure.
My favorite was “Tomorrowland,” where the future came alive in every attraction. Innovations that allowed guests to experience the distant future of telephones or experience a rotating audio-animatronic stage show that explored the joys of living through the advent of electricity and the future of food cooked at remarkable speed were mesmerizing. The sponsors of these attractions had a vision to change how we lived. Then, their vision. Today, our reality.
A visionary – one who thinks about the future in a creative and imaginative way, is ahead of one’s time, and has a powerful plan for change; often the responsibility of one in leadership.
In Scripture that visionary is often referred to as shepherd, one who goes beyond service – to sacrifice.
David. Moses. Amos. All shepherds. All visionaries. All sacrificed their will – their vision for the future – for the Father’s. Although we can’t speak to the foundation of Walt Disney’s vision, we know the source of the vision of these shepherds. Whether constructing a temple, leading the Jews into the Promised Land, or awakening the nation of Israel to their sins, the Father had provided each with the vision he wanted them to lead others to accomplish.
Just as the Father provided direction to David, Moses, and Amos regarding their vision, he provided the vision that Jesus, The Good Shepherd, implemented. In the same way, the Divine is ready and willing to provide the focus for our vision as well – whether personal or organizational.
Unfortunately, however, as leaders we often seek wisdom regarding the how related to vision implementation, but frequently neglect seeking the Almighty’s input regarding the substance of the vision itself – or what – the Father wants us to pursue.
These men understood that. As shepherd-leaders they were to champion the vision that God had set for them, rather than follow their own wishes.
Seeking the Father
Often we understand the importance of providing what is required to accomplish the vision, removing roadblocks to protect the realization of the vision. We prioritize being present, physically or emotionally, so the vision can be achieved. However, we miss the importance of a holy indifference to our own desires in setting the vision, instead seeking after the Father for his knowledge and understanding.
And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding. (Jer. 3:15, NLT)
The Lord communicated through Jeremiah the prerequisite for the shepherds who would lead his people and promised the nation of Israel they would have godly rulers. These shepherds would seek after him and govern with knowledge, in the fear of the Lord, conforming to the mind and will of the Father.
We know that in ourselves we cannot gain true knowledge and understanding, yet we often skip the foundational requirement of the vision-setting process – seeking the Father’s input. This step is so important to the success of shepherds that God spoke of the shepherds who are “senseless” by saying, “The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the Lord; so they do not prosper, and all their flock is scattered.” (Jer. 10:21)
Just as this truth applied to ancient Israel, it applies to us as under-shepherds of God’s flock responsible for conveying the vision that he imparts.
Once these men knew the Father’s vision for the work they were leading, he provided all they needed to accomplish it.
King David’s example
I Chronicles 28 allows us to journey with King David when he cast the vision for building the temple. He called his leadership team together and shared the vision. He was transparent in his presentation and his plea (“I had it in my heart... But God said.”) He explained that God had chosen his son, Solomon, to lead the work, voicing his support and obedience to God in the process. Additionally, he charged and encouraged Solomon publicly reminding him that success required complete devotion to God and to the work.
David supplied Solomon with plans to visualize the finished product, advice regarding the division of labor, and details for creating each article required to complete the vision. Then, lastly, he encouraged his son privately, reminding him to be strong and courageous.
As he cast the vision to build the temple, David demonstrated three requirements of godly shepherding – provision, protection and presence. He shepherded well the responsibility the Father had entrusted to him. David continued to cast the vision when he accepted the offerings for the temple, and prayed as Solomon was anointed king.
Moses did the same throughout his 40 years of shepherding the Israelites toward the Promised Land. He cast and recast the vision God had imparted to him for the people, of “a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8) and the trust in the Almighty the expedition would require. He displayed provision, protection and presence, throughout his time as under-shepherd in the wilderness.
To help accomplish the vision he had been given, Moses began that journey by asking God three direct questions. These questions, seen in Exodus 3 and 4 illustrated Moses’ dependence on the Father, a requirement of an effective under-shepherd. The first question demonstrated his humility, “Who am I?” The second illustrated his dependence, “What shall I tell them?” And, the third question showed his humanity when facing a seemingly impossible challenge, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”
Amos, the shepherd prophet, accepted the responsibility of communicating God’s words regarding social justice, the Father’s omnipotence, and God’s judgment to the people of Israel. His was a vision of awakening and restoration, and through obedience and by his presence, Amos made every effort to provide the word of the Lord to the people of Israel. He sought to protect them from God’s wrath, pointing them to life.
The behaviors of these three godly under-shepherds provide a blueprint for developing a vision that’s aligned with the Father. They inspired others to embrace his vision, leading in the direction the Almighty has designed. Essentially, they demonstrate the provision, protection and presence required for shepherding well as illustrated in the shepherd leadership model, The Leader’s Shield.
This leaves us with significant questions and an important choice. We can set a vision based on our own desires and the world’s influence. We can risk the vision we set being our dreams, our hopes, and our desires. Alternately, we can focus on our Good, Great and Chief Shepherd, the intended model for leading well. We can seek his vision for ourselves and for the organizations we shepherd in his name.
Which will it be for you, dear under-shepherd?
Will you be a shepherd after the Father’s heart, deferring to his leadership and guiding with his knowledge and understanding, or will you choose your own way?