Living by God's design

Study 2: A healed community

ThLeroyEims.pnge gloves are off. There’s everything to play for: an electorate to persuade and a future to shape.

In just over 7 weeks from now (I’m writing this on Thursday 27th April), we’ll discover which party has been successful in the 2017 General Election, having the unenviable task of setting the political and economic agenda for the next five years – major disasters excepted, of course.

History teaches us that, although policies and commitments are important, victory is often snatched from the jaws of defeat by a charismatic leader who rises to prominence, just at the right moment. There are plenty of examples we could cite in support of this – and not just in the political arena. There’s no doubt that Churchill was a great leader in the dark days of WWII (although his peace time record is a little more questionable), whilst Roosevelt led the USA out of the Great Depression in the 1930’s with his New Deal approach.

Good leaders create an environment which encourages others to grow, as they are supported and equipped. How does this come about in the church – and, to ensure we are not led down the wrong path – how will we know when we are not being led well?

The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve (John Stott)

Remember that mentor leadership is all about serving. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). (Tony Dungy)

Pause for thought

  1. What are the dangers of bad leadership?
  2. How will we recognise it if the church loses its way?

In the Old Testament, God was seen as the shepherd (leader/pastor) of Israel his chosen people with the priests and Kings as under shepherds beneath Him, subject to His rule and authority. The prophecy of Ezekiel was given at a time when these under shepherds had lost their sense of responsibility and were exploiting rather than caring for God’s people. Not only the people but also the nation needed God’s healing touch.

Please read Ezekiel 34: 1 - 24

The State of the Nation (vv. 1 – 10)

  1. What’s going on and what does this say about the leaders’ view of God?
  2. Where could we see people today being exploited in the church for others’ gain?
  3. What are the essential ingredients for the church today as suggested by verses 3 to 6?
  4. What are the practical implications of this?
  5. Please re read verses 7 to 10. How do we recognise (and practically apply) our accountability towards the “little ones” in the faith?

There are many parallels between this passage and Psalm 23 (sometimes called the Shepherd’s Psalm) and with Jesus’ words in John 10:1 – 18. In each instance the message reminds us that where human beings have failed us and when we are looking for care and comfort, then that comfort is to be found in God who truly cares for us as a shepherd does for his sheep.

The Good Shepherd (vv. 11 – 24)

  1. What do these verses tell us about the kind of commitment God shows towards his people?
  2. What has God saved us (“rescued us” vv. 12) from? What is God’s promise to us? (What have we been saved to)
  3. How does the promise of good pasture (vv. 14) help us when we are going through troubles and difficulties?
  4. How do we guide others without becoming bound by rules or laws of our making?
  5. Verses 22 – 24 point us forward to someone who will be the Saviour of Israel. In light of John 10: 1 – 18, how does Jesus fulfil God’s words from Ezekiel 34??
  6. Jesus used the everyday image of the shepherd to explain how he would care for the people of God. What image(s) can we rightly use, in a very different culture, to explain today how much God cares for us?

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