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6 Lessons From John 10 That Will Make You a Better Pastor

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John 10 gives clear lessons that will make you a better pastor.

To be known is to be loved. All people have a deep need to belong; when we do not have a sense of belonging, we will look for it relentlessly. We long for this in our families and with our friends. In the relationships where we are known intimately yet still accepted, we count those as safe places to hide from the world and a trusted refuge for life. A good leader will help those who are following him to feel known, accepted, and to have a sense of belonging. He will care for them, look out for them and guard them and by doing so, he will gain an ever-increasing trust in his followers.

The greatest level of trust exists in environments where we are known and accepted. This happens in relationships where we are more than mere acquaintance, servants or employees. True intimacy exists when two people know each other. As they grow in their knowledge of each other’s character, preferences, and past, they still keep loving one another and working toward the same goal. While this is a sweet bond between two people, it is the sweetest between God and us.

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KNOWING OR BEING KNOWN BY GOD

In the Bible, we see many invitations to know God—but we also see many illustrations of God knowing us. The Apostle Paul gave many exhortations about the importance of being “known” by God. While the New Testament invites us to know God, it proclaims that it is even more wondrous that we are known by God. In passages like 1 Corinthians 8:3, Galatians 4:9 and 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul tells us to embrace the wonder of being known and accepted by God. One of greatest passages he wrote about being known by God is found in 1 Corinthians 13:12 where it states, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (emphasis mine). This side of heaven, we can only see God vaguely and obscurely—but there is coming a time when we will see God clearly, at the same level we already have been “fully known.” God already knows us completely; this should not be frightening, but joyous to our soul. We trust Him as our sovereign, unchanging and trustworthy God. God knows us and accepts us, loves us, and redeems us like a caring shepherd.

THE BIBLE PRESENTS LEADERSHIP AS SHEPHERDING

Throughout the Old Testament we see references to God as the “Shepherd” of His people. The way He led His people in the wilderness is referred to as His faithful shepherding of them in Psalm 77. He protected His sheep (Num. 14:7–9; Deut. 23:14), provided for their needs (Ps. 78:19,105:40–41), and healed their wounds (Ex. 15:26; Num. 21:8–9). The prophets refer to God’s shepherding leadership time and again (Is. 40:11; Jer. 3:15; 23:1-2, Hos. 11:4).[1] David is quick to use the idea of shepherding when speaking about God and to God, as this labeling certainly carried a special analogy of leadership for this shepherd boy turned king.

It is not just the Old Testament that captures this aspect of God that is to be accepted and emulated by us. Jesus also mentions the shepherd in nature of the Father’s leadership several times in the Gospel.[2] One of the most prominent passages about shepherding is found in John 10:1-18. In this passage, Jesus is speaking of His role as He serves at the pleasure of the Father to love, guard, and care for the sheep. There are many leadership lessons we can grasp from His model. This is a passage to first be internalized for our own trust and growth and then modeled for those whom we lead.

JOHN 10:1-18 — SETTING THE SCENE FOR THE SHEPHERD-LEADER

Jesus had just healed a man born blind in John 9. In his healing of the man, He was compassionate, not shaming, and quick to use this man as an opportunity to speak to the disciples and the opposing Jews about the love of God and the forgiveness He gives to those who believe (Jn. 9:35-41). After concluding His statements about believing and opening the door for the man and others to be freed from their guilt, He gives a clear picture of who He is, what He does, and why He can be trusted.

Jesus said in John 10;1-2, “[1] Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. [2] But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.”

The first century listener would have heard Jesus speaking about this sheepfold and had a clear picture in their mind of what that looked like: it was a container for the sheep, usually made of stone.[3] It could have also been constructed of sharp sticks with thick sides. Jesus says that the shepherd goes in through the door, but the thief or the robber go over the side. He defines for us what The Great Shepherd is like, making it clear that He is welcoming to His sheep, inviting them to feel at home.

THE SHEPHERD-LEADER IS WELCOMING

Not only does He enter by the door—calmly, safely and approachable—but He also becomes the door. He does not climb over walls or lobbing in religious bombs to the flock of sheep to convert them or convince them to follow. He personally enters and interacts with the sheep. By entering gently, He makes a way for their security with God. The idea of Jesus not only being the Shepherd, but also being the door is mentioned in John 10:7, “So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.’”

Jesus is modeling a level of high invitation and comfort as a leader. He does not force His way in, or coerce His followers to enter in. Rather, He welcomes them and is a welcoming leader. This is an attribute we should mimic in our own shepherding-leadership. If we are not providing a safe place for those we lead to enter into the conversation and the mission, we will minimize their gifts and marginalize the opportunity for them to feel known.

A great Bible Scholar, long dead, Sir George Adam Smith tells a story of a time when he was traveling in Israel (historic Palestine):

Traveling with the guide, he came across a shepherd sheep. He fell into conversation with him. The man showed him the fold into which the sheep were late at night. It consisted of four walls, with only one-way in. Sir George said to him, “this is where they go at night?”

“Yes,” said the shepherd, “and when they are in there they are perfectly safe.”  “But there is no door,” said Sir George. “I am the door,” said the shepherd.

He was not a Christian man; he was not speaking in the language of the New Testament. He was speaking from the Arab shepherd standpoint. Sir George looked at him and said, “what do you mean you’re the door?”

The shepherd replied, “when the light has gone, and all the sheep are inside, I live in the open space and no sheep ever goes out but across my body and no wolf ever comes in unless it crosses my body; I am the door.” [4]

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Josh Weidmann as been writing and speaking for the Church since he was a teenager. He has served as the teaching, associate and senior pastor in several different churches and now is the Senior Pastor of Grace Chapel in Englewood. He is a proud husband to his best friend, Molly and father of five kids! His books, blog and speaking ministry can be found at www.joshweidmann.com