Shepherd-Leaders

[A few people who read my recent blog on “Broken Beauty” have asked what I mean when I say we need shepherds who will lead in every area of society. The following is an article I wrote about biblical shepherds; I wrote it for Korean readers because of the urgent need for shepherds as they look forward to unification. But I believe all people of all nations need true shepherds.]

The Lord of all nations is a Shepherd. Throughout the history of His people Israel, God continued to judge the unrighteous shepherds who governed His people. “Shepherds” is the name God gave to the kings and religious leaders of ancient Israel. Yet they were not true shepherds. They did not feed their sheep but rather ate off the labor of their sheep. They did not strengthen the weak or care for the sick or dying. They did not seek the lost or those who strayed. Rather, they ruled in unrighteousness, and the people were destroyed because of the lack of justice. For this reason the people lived in constant fear and dismay, and many were scattered and missing.

God announced that He Himself would become their Shepherd. Through the great prophets He promised that He would seek the lost, bring back the strayed, bind up the injured, strengthen the weak, feed them in justice and remove all oppression from His people. (Ezekiel 34; Jeremiah 29; Zechariah 11)

But He also promised that He would raise up shepherd-leaders among the people who would model His leadership. The time has come. We are approaching the climax of what God wants to do on the Korean Peninsula. We must begin to seek out the new leaders, those who will shepherd a united Korea. The Church must engage in “searching prayer” for these new shepherds—not only religious leaders but also leaders in the political, economic, educational and social realms. Then we must train them to lead from a biblical worldview. Then God’s light will shine on the renewed Korean Peninsula to enlighten the nations surrounding her. The river of life will flow forth from this land for the cleansing and healing of the nations.

What will these new shepherd-leaders be like? How will these godly leaders of the nation and the church lead their people? What will they actually do? Here are some marks of God’s shepherd-leaders:

Most importantly, all of their leadership—how they think, how they serve their people, how they lead and seek to influence surrounding nations—will have one goal: to honor and exalt the Name of the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself must be Lord of the New Korea. They will be men and women who worship God and seek to serve Him before all else. When God’s people honor Him, then God honors His people. But if leaders despise God, then God holds those leaders in light esteem and does not bless them. (1 Samuel 2:30) Therefore the people suffer because of ungodly leaders.

Equally important with honoring God, shepherd-leaders will honor the people they serve. Compassion will be the mark of their leadership. They will care for their sheep, whether strong or weak. They will lead in “gentle (온유한) strength.” (Isaiah 40:10-11) The Scriptural meaning of “gentleness” (온유함) is “submission.” God gives special strength, and talents, to His leaders. But when leaders submit their strength to God, and lead under His guidance and authority, their strength becomes greater. It becomes “gentle strength.”

Most outstanding of the marks of a shepherd-leader is that he (or she) will love his people to the point of laying down his own life for them. He will love them with a practical love that brings transformation to every area of society – religious, political, social, economic, educational, health and all other areas – because he will love his people as Christ has loved him. Basic human rights will be met. The Word of God will be set free in the land, and hunger will no longer exist; poverty will be eliminated; his people will be free to move about and joy will mark their lives. Does this sound like an apocryphal, “end of time” society? No, it is simply a society where leaders lead in practical love. We do not see many leaders like this in modern times. Perhaps we should look back a few centuries to other great leaders, such as King Sejong 세종대왕, or Abraham Lincoln.

A godly shepherd-leader will feed his people, just as a shepherd feeds his sheep. What will be the main food that he feeds them? The Word of God! Why is this so? Because a society based upon the Word of God will ensure that every human need is met according to God’s plan, including proper nutrition and justice in every area of the people’s lives. A godly leader who knows and obeys the Word of God will feed his people in justice and righteousness. Some people may think that it is super-spiritual to demand that a shepherd-leader of the New Korea be a “man of the Word.” But is there a more important book, or resource, to which a leader can turn? “Bible study” in the Blue House, or the White House (or in every house, for that matter) – provided that it is not mere “preaching,” or “moral exhortation” – but rather searching the Scriptures for God’s master plan for each individual, is essential. A shepherd-leader will feed people the Word of God, and then ensure that the Word becomes a reality in the daily lives of his people.

Shepherd-leaders strengthen the weak people around them. Every society has its weaker members who are not able to care for themselves or fend for themselves when misused or abused by others. Most nations in the world, with a few exceptions, neglect the weak and needy, the poor and outcast. But just as the Body of Christ – the Church – is only as strong as its weakest member, so also a nation is only as strong at its weakest people. Governments that continue to abuse, imprison and ignore their weaker members will eventually perish. But who are the weak? Are any of us so strong that we do not need one another to exist? Are we not all weak? Blessed are the shepherd-leaders who care for the weak among them. God will honor them.

Scripture tells us that a shepherd-leader brings back those who have strayed, who have been injured or hurt because of bad leaders who took advantage of the people they should have been serving. When one travels among the nations of the world, it is impossible not to see the people who live on the fringes of society, who seem to have no place in their own country. The homeless children who roam the streets of Brazil, those who sleep under bridges or in parks in America, people who are forced to scavenge for food in rural areas of North Korea or Somalia, the 250,000 child soldiers in over twenty nations around the world, the defenseless young girls of Nigeria – these are the displaced people, the rejected ones. But they are the same ones Christ called His “little brothers and sisters.” Servant-leaders will restore such people, binding up their wounds and restoring them to fullness of life.

One of the great roles of new servant-leaders will be to bring healing to the sick. Who can begin to count the great multitudes of people – all God’s people – who suffer from sickness even in this 21st century! Sick in body, sick in soul, bearing burdens too heavy for a human to carry. Jesus must look at His people and grieve, asking, “Who will heal My people?” This could be the greatest challenge facing the new shepherd-leaders of Korea or any nation: bringing healing to a broken land – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Church leaders must take the lead in this healing. Each local church must become a healing community of the Holy Spirit, both praying and acting to bring healing to the nation.

There is another mark of shepherd-leaders that is especially true of the Church. Shepherds seek those who are lost. This is the basic mission of the Church. The theologian Emil Brunner said truly that, just as fire exists by burning, so the church exists by mission to the world. Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.” (John 10:16) Concentrating on ourselves and our own needs and fulfillment, we have neglected the growing numbers of non-believers who exist but who do not have true life in Jesus Christ. Once we regain this passion to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to the lost, both inside our nation and outside, in the world, the Church will regain her reason for existence. Perhaps then renewal will come. Shepherd-leaders must take the initiative.

An even greater task awaits the new shepherd-leaders in the nation of Korea. That is the task of bringing unity to a broken nation. Decades of division between south and north have crippled hundreds of thousands of families throughout the land. The new shepherd-leader must realize that God had never recognized “two Koreas.” He only sees one people, one nation, with one Lord, one Great Shepherd over all His people. This is why we speak not of “North” Korea, or “South” Korea, but only of “One Korea.” Again the shepherd-leaders in the church must take the lead and set the example for other shepherd-leaders in the nation. Christians must begin to see that there is only One Church. All of our divisions are offensive to the Lord. We must open ourselves to one another and welcome one another. The church of the South and the North must seek ways to foster unity with one another.  We must seek to be one with all Christians in all nations around the world. Will God not then bring healing to this divided land? The new shepherd-leaders hold the answer.

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