by Christopher Harbin

Caring For Sheep
Christopher Harbin
1 Peter 5:1-10

What is the best way to care for people? It is an issue we deal with in so many aspects of our lives. Parents worry over how to rear their children appropriately, seeking various strategies to resolve issues that arise, only to find that the context of their parenting has shifted with new issues and stages to address. Teachers struggle to teach their students amid an array of learning problems, individual needs, disrupted family lives, and political pressures to perform along with decreasing resources. Physicians try to meet the health needs of patients in shifting contexts of health care demands, legislation, influence of insurance and pharmaceutical interests, as well as public opinion of various sorts. In caring for others, there are many issues to be weighed and to which one must respond. We must discern between our own responsibility, the responsibility of others, and the best way to influence and nurture positively.

Leadership has often been compared to herding cats, attempting to get a group of individuals with individual desires and needs to cooperate under the direction of one person or one ideal. It may function differently in the corporate world, but in the church, the issue is even more complicated. As Baptists with a congregational governance system, we do not live in a hierarchical structure in which leadership means handing down definitions that others must simply accept. Our congregational structure is the inverse of a hierarchy with one defined leader to which others need submit. Leadership becomes a wholly different animal. It becomes a matter of influence, example, and encouragement.

The church is composed of individuals, each with the same access to God and God's direction. That does not mean that we all make equal use of the access we have to God, nor that we are all tuned into God's direction to the same degree. What it does mean, however, is that there is no one person or persons w ...

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