Monday, July 02, 2018

Calling all Sheep - "Get Thee Behind Them!"

Calling all sheep! Let's thank God for our current shepherds, and let's prepare to welcome those about to join them in this vital role. Their combined ability to lead us will depend to a large extent on our willingness to follow. As God guides them, and as we listen and respond, they can take this flock closer to where we need to be. Sheep, get thee behind them!
It’s the stuff that movies, books, history, families, and the news are made of. It’s such a common story line that it often becomes quite predictable. The leaders have a plan. If the others in the group will follow that plan, they will all succeed together. But someone thinks he has a better idea. There’s an independent, resistant element in the group. There’s a rival leader, or an attempted break, or a competitive, “I’ll never follow you!” spirit.
It’s even the stuff that the Bible is made of. In our current study of Numbers, the people argue, complain, and criticize Moses. How can he lead them? He feels overwhelmed and has a meltdown. God says, “Appoint 70 elders!”
Well, we’re not appointing 70! But we are in the process of installing additional elders to shepherd and oversee this flock. How can we follow in ways that will help them lead?
Have you ever tried to lead a group of people – maybe your own children – through a busy, crowded shopping area, or an amusement park, or a huge airport like DFW? Have you ever lost anyone? Did you have to go back to get them?
OK, I know that “Get Thee Behind Them!” is a tricky title. I took it from Jesus’ words to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” in Matt 16:23. Certainly that would make a great sermon. When Peter told Jesus that He would never be handed over to death, Jesus was able to recognize that Peter’s words represented what Satan would say.
Of course we must also resist Satan and refuse any message or instruction that he would endorse. But I chose this title for a very different reason.
In order for our shepherds to lead this flock, you and I as sheep must get behind them. Not just for their sake – not just for our own sake – but for God’s sake and for God’s glory.
In fact, here is something else Peter said, words given by the Spirit of God:
1 Pe 5:5-7
5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
The fact is, a leader is a person that other people will follow. Otherwise he is just taking a walk.
Leaders can only direct and instruct those who are willing to submit and learn. As God raises up additional elders to oversee and shepherd the flock, may He also teach us to be willing sheep!
Critical time in the church’s life.
We are choosing leaders, but are we willing to follow?
What good are leaders without followers?
What’s harder, to lead or to follow?
Easiest: to refuse to lead, refuse to follow, sit on the sidelines and complain about those who do!
We have used, and you have submitted, “Elder Nomination Forms. What if we had “Follower Nomination Forms?”  Would you and I be considered?
Would a coach choose you and me for the team as those that would accept instructions, work hard, and contribute significantly to its success? Why or why not?
For every job that a shepherd has, each sheep has a corresponding duty.
1 Th 5:12-14
Appreciate them. Esteem them highly in love.
Because …
         They diligently labor among you.
         They have charge over you.
         They give you instruction, admonition.
1 Th 5:12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
“Know” (oida) is rendered in some versions as “appreciate” or “respect.” The idea is: recognize the important posi­tion which these men occupy and regard them with due re­spect. Welcome them in your home. Speak highly of them in the presence of others. Know them personally as friends and as spiritual counselors.
Three reasons are given for such high regard, and each reason suggests a responsibility which the church has toward her leaders. These three reasons are:
[1] These men are those who labor dilgently (kopiao) among you. The first term which describes church leaders is their tireless effort for us, their will­ingness to exert them­selves for the sake of the church, even to the point of weariness and exhaustion (kopiao). So, appreciate them.
[2] And they have charge over (pro-istemi) you. Because church leaders expend such massive energy to serve the church, church leaders have the authority to lead the church. Because they labor so diligently, they have the right to lead the church; so, follow them. Let them lead.
[3] And they instruct / admonish / exhort (noutheteo) you. Noutheteo means literally to “put in mind” (nous + tithemi), and hence to instruct, warn, caution against specific wrongs, reprove mildly, correct. Such “putting in mind” is a necessary function of church leaders. It follows from this that the church must be receptive to hear and accept the warnings issued by these men. They are appointed by God to admonish the church; so, give heed to them.
When church leaders must confront sin in our lives and encourage us to repent, they do so as a part of their God-given responsibility, out of love for us and the Lord. We should love them and esteem them all the more because they are willing to correct us for our own good, even when such correction is difficult or painful.
Knowing the leaders of the church implies communicating with those leaders. Talk to the elders. Voice your ideas, your feelings, your concerns, your needs. Help them lead by informing them of areas in which their leadership is needed. Elders cannot lead an individual, a family, or a church unless elders are made aware of the needs which are there. Granted, elders are responsible to communicate, too, and to know the sheep well. But communication is a two-way street.
My experience in church leadership has taught me that nothing is more important than clear two-way commu­nication between the church’s leaders and the church’s members. The elders must set their highest priority on hearing the church and con­versing with the church. Every member in the church must likewise set the highest priority on hearing the leaders and conversing with the leaders.
Esteem (hegeisthai) = suppose, believe, consider, think
Highly (hyper-ekperissou) = superabundantly, exceeding abundantly; only used three times in NT; cf. EPH 3:20!
In love (agape) reminds us that the church is to love her elders at the highest level of unconditional love, as God has loved us.
“Because of their work (ergon)” reminds us that church leaders have earned the respect and support of the church. Again, the eldership is not an honorary position given to “good ole boys” who attend church services. The eldership is not an award to be won or a plaque to be hung on the wall. It is rather a work to be done ... the most important work on earth.
Heb 13:7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
Imitate (mimeisthe)
The writer of Hebrews has urged us in chapter 11 to imitate the faith of the spiritual giants who have gone before (Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc.). Now he adds church leaders to the list of those worthy of our imitation.
We imitate the faith of church leaders because we consider the outcome of their way of life. That is, we want to wind up one day where they are going to wind up. In this life, we want to enjoy the blessings which they have received through their godly character. In the life to come we want to be where they are, around God’s throne in heaven.
If we want to have the same outcome for our lives that godly elders will have for their lives, the only way to go about it is to live by the same type of faith which they have.
Heb 13:17 Obey them. Submit to them.
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
They keep watch, give account for your soul.
When they can do this with joy, not grief, you receive the benefit.
So help them enjoy what they do – for you!
“Obey” = peithesthe (obey because persuaded by them)
NOTE: This word implies that the church trusts her leaders.
“Submit” = hypeikete (be in subjection, under)
“Leaders” = hegoumenois
For they keep watch over (agryp-neuo) your souls ...
“As those who will give an account.” Elders’ most sobering responsibility.
“Let them do this with joy and not grief (groaning)” ... OR “Obey and submit in order that they may do this with joy.”
That is, obey the leaders in order to make their work a joyful privilege and not a burdensome grief. Cooperate with the elders ... cause them to delight in their role ... help them in solving problems rather than creating problems for them to solve.
Leaders cannot lead unless followers are willing to follow. That’s one reason why this lesson on the church’s responsi­bilities to leaders is so vital.
Leaders cannot be accountable to God for us unless we are also accountable to the leaders.
The church must be willing to follow the leaders even in “judgment calls” which the leaders must make for the good of the congregation. Elders must be able to expect that the membership will get behind the program of work which they put before the congregation.
The task of elders is not to do the work of the church, but to lead the church to do the work of the church.
Eph 4:11 Church leaders “equip the saints for the work of ministry ...”
They can only equip us to serve if we submit ourselves to their leadership!
Sometimes church members agree to follow their leaders only as long as the leaders perfectly agree with what these members would have decided themselves if they were elders. But such an approach does not really in­volve following the leaders at all; rath­er, it has the members following them­selves by insisting that their will dominate.
In summary, the church’s responsibilities toward church leaders are to RESPECT  --- TRUST --- and COMMUNICATE.
It takes more than great leadership to have a great church. It takes great followship. We need leaders who will lead, but we must also have followers who will follow. When leaders lead and the church follows, the result is a great church. To God be the glory.
To get thee behind them …
Pray for them, their wives, and their families.
Reaffirm: “I will work and worship under them.”
Show up! Don’t make them come find you!
Expect a transition period as roles are redefined.
Know who they are. Know “your” shepherd.
To get thee behind them …
Be the sheep that you would want to shepherd.
Love them with the agape traits of 1 Cor 13.
Recognize and respect their responsibility.
Realize that they have “feet of clay.”
Before you ask, offer, “How may I help you?”
To get thee behind them …
Help a deacon – or become one.
Don’t complain about the gaps. Fill them.
Talk to them, not about them. Meet with them.
Talk them up with family and other members.
Get close, and show other sheep the way.
Help them lead us to Him.
Possible hymns:
I am a Sheep
Where He Leads I’ll Follow
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
The Lord’s My Shepherd
Fear Not, Little Flock

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