by Holly Culhane
It seems like a no-brainer to state that to shepherd well it is imperative to provide for the needs of the sheep in our lives. Experience, however, tells us that often leaders aren’t connected closely enough to those they lead to know their needs. Ultimately then, the leader falls short of leading as shepherd. For that reason, and many others, it’s been determined that Provision is a pivotal element of shepherd leadership.
Phillip Keller was the son of missionary parents. He grew up and lived in East Africa surrounded by simple native herders whose customs closely resembled those of their counterparts in the Middle East. In addition, as a young man, he made his own livelihood for a time as a sheep owner and sheep rancher. Ultimately, known as a “world citizen,” he added to his resume the professions of agronomist, author, and photographer. In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Keller reminds his readers that, at the end of the day, the welfare of any flock is entirely dependent upon the management afforded them by their shepherd.
That’s true in leading literal sheep and it’s true in shepherding at work, at home, in ministry, and in our communities. A review of what happened to Eli’s flock in I Samuel and God’s Word to the leaders of Israel through several of the prophets, quickly confirm the fact from a Biblical perspective.
Keller also tells a story of a tenant sheepman on a farm next to his first ranch who was the most indifferent manager he had ever met. He describes how this individual never seemed concerned about the condition of the sheep, letting them pretty well forage for themselves as best they could in both summer and winter! He notes that even the man’s land, the place where the sheep grazed, was neglected. He noted that in his mind’s eye, “he could still see those sheep standing at the fence, huddled sadly together, staring wistfully through the wires at the rich pastures on the other side.” How sad is that??!!
From early dawn until late at night, a selfless shepherd is alert to the needs of his or her flock. “With a practiced, searching, sympathetic eye,” Keller says, “the shepherd examines the sheep to see that they’re fit, content, and able to be on their feet. In an instant, he or she can tell if they’ve had trouble during the night, if they’re ill, or if they require special attention that only the shepherd can provide. Then, repeatedly throughout the day, a true shepherd will continue to keep an eye on the flock to assure all is well.”
Paul reminds us of the importance our Good Shepherd places on provision…
This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches,
which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
Keeping the need for provision for the sheep in your life front of mind, take a moment and ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I the shepherd to whom no trouble is too great to care for my flock? Am I alert to the needs of those I lead?
- Do I care for them – for their own sake – as well as find personal pleasure in their successes, growth, and development?
- Am I the leader who will be on the job in such a way that I assure those I influence are properly provided for in every detail?
In Keller’s words, “It is the boss, the manager, the shepherd in people’s lives who makes the difference in their destiny.”
Live deeply into that calling, dear fellow under-shepherds, for you have been called by God.