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They Smell Like Sheep: Spiritual Leadership for the Twenty-First Century

They Smell Like Sheep: Spiritual Leadership for the Twenty-First Century

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by Lynn Anderson

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What kind of leadership will effectively lead the church into the morally turbulent twenty-first century? The same kind of leadership that led it through the morally and politically chaotic first century. Shepherding.

This is the kind of leadership Jesus used, and this is the kind of leadership that will take his church where he wants it to go.

While the term


What kind of leadership will effectively lead the church into the morally turbulent twenty-first century? The same kind of leadership that led it through the morally and politically chaotic first century. Shepherding.

This is the kind of leadership Jesus used, and this is the kind of leadership that will take his church where he wants it to go.

While the term "shepherd" produces warm images of love, care, and tenderness, it also describes a form of leadership that is perilously protective, dangerous, dirty, and smelly.

"Shepherd" is something that every follower of Christ, the Good Shepherd, is called to become.

Lynn Anderson, in this important book, leads us backwards in time to discover and identify the biblical leader for the future needs of the Christian community. Anderson�s deep dig for truth will concern, convict, and confront us about where leadership has been, and will set a new standard for where the future leader must go.

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Read an Excerpt

They Smell Like Sheep

By Lynn Anderson

Howard Books

Copyright © 1997 Lynn Anderson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781582292977

Shepherds on

the Hills of Bible History


One Sunday, a

dear friend and member of my congregation cornered me after a

sermon in which I repeatedly referred to elders as



don't you find a better way to communicate this spiritual

leadership idea? No one in our church knows anything about

shepherds and sheep—especially the way all that stuff worked

in the ancient world. That picture just doesn't connect with

a modern church."

Admittedly, the

shepherd metaphor does sound strange in the cyber-world of our

daily experience. We don't normally see these picturesque,

rural characters rolling down the expressways or eating at our

local McDonald's. But, after carefully considering my

friend's suggestion and searching in vain for a contemporary

metaphor that would better connect the biblical notion with our

times, I finally had to explain, "I can't find any

figure equivalent to the shepherd idea in our modern, urban

world. Besides, if I drop the shepherd and flock idea, I would

have to tear about five hundred pages out ofmy Bible, plus leave

the modern church with a distorted—if not neutered—view

of spiritual leadership." God keeps pointing shepherds to

the pasture to struggle with sheep.

In Bible times,

the shepherds were as common and familiar to most Middle

Easterners as are telephones and supermarkets to modern-day

Americans. Almost anywhere in the Bible world, eyes that lifted

to gaze across the landscape would fall upon at least one flock

of sheep. As my friend Ted Waller reminds us, in antiquity,

the family

often depended upon sheep for survival. A large part of their

diet was milk and cheese. Occasionally, they ate the meat.

Their clothing and tents were made of wool and skins. Their

social position often depended upon the well-being of the

flock, just as we depend upon jobs and businesses, cars and

houses. Family honor might depend upon defending the flock.


throughout History

The shepherd

metaphor shows up more than five hundred times in Scripture,

across both Old and New Testaments. Without question, the

dominant biblical model for spiritual leadership is the shepherd

and flock. If we want to understand the biblical model for

leadership, we must embrace the concept of shepherd.

God as Shepherd

In the

"olden days" of the Old Testament world, the watch-care

of God himself is pictured in the shepherd/sheep relationship.

Most of us can quote the familiar words, "The Lord is my

shepherd." The prophet Isaiah penned this less familiar but

equally eloquent picture of God, "He tends his flock like a

shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close

to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." What a

winsome picture of our God!

Can't you

just envision the awkward and delicate little lamb, ears askew,

one gangly leg dangling near the shepherd's elbow? Notice

that the shepherd tilts his head so that his beard nuzzles the

lamb's cheek and his resonant voice murmurs gently to the

lamb as they move through the twilight toward the rest and safety

of the sheepfold. Old Testament readers would have pictured just

such a gentle, caring relationship between God and his

people—"the sheep of his pasture." And although

"we all, like sheep, have gone astray," we still have a

"good shepherd" who will love us and lead us gently

back to the fold.


Priests, and Kings as Shepherds

Later, God

pictured his prophets, priests, and kings as shepherds. When God

chose David—the shepherd-king after God's "own

heart"—he "took him from the sheep pens; from

tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his

people. . . . And David shepherded them with integrity of


God also

expected the prophets and priests of Israel to shepherd his

people, but they often failed miserably at their task. Although

many did not live up to their role as shepherd, God came back

again and again to the idea that the leaders of his people were

shepherds—even though some were bad shepherds.

God warned

these "false shepherds" in graphic language; and in no

uncertain terms, he pronounced woes on their heads. The prophet

Jeremiah blasted the "shepherds" of Judah for

misleading their flock, setting it up for captivity in Babylon.

My people have

been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused

them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and

hill and forgot their own resting place.

Leaders who

were responsible for the spiritual well-being of Judah shirked

their duties and instead indulged their own selfish desires. The

Lord's rebuke comes through loud and clear in this passage

from Ezekiel:

Woe to the

shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not

shepherds take care of the flock? . . . You have not strengthened

the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not

brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled

them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered.

Then he spells

out their sentence:

Weep and wail,

you shepherds; roll in the dust, you leaders of the flock. For

your time to be slaughtered has come; you will fall and be

shattered like fine pottery.

The shepherd

metaphor for the leaders of Israel was not lost on the Israelite

people. Those ancient folks knew that the food on their tables

and the clothes on their backs—not to mention the family

honor—was inexorably linked to the way they cared for their

flocks. And thus, they understood that the very spiritual

survival of their nation hinged on the quality of work done by

their leaders.

It goes without

saying that the prophetic warnings against the unfit spiritual

shepherds of Israel hold implications for today's church

leaders. Today's leaders carry life and death responsibility

for their people, just as did the prophets, priests, and kings of


Jesus as


In the New

Testament, Jesus is our shepherd. In the Old Testament, God had

dropped hints of the coming shepherd through the prophet Ezekiel:

"I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and

he will tend them . . . and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be

their God, and my servant David will be prince among them."

Speaking of

himself as the loving shepherd, Jesus says that he leaves the

ninety-nine in the open country and goes in search of the lost

one. "And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his

shoulders and goes home." He drapes this stinky, wayward

sheep around his neck and carries it home. Think of it. Jesus

left the comforts of heaven and came into our universe, our

pasture, to smell like sheep! Jesus sweated like we do. He walked

our pathways, braved our wolves, faced our temptations, and

shared our struggles. The Holy One of Israel came in Jesus Christ

to be our good shepherd.

My friend Roy

tells a fascinating story about a trip to Palestine some years

back. One afternoon, he stood on a ridge overlooking a long,

narrow gorge. Below him, the gorge opened out into rolling

grass-covered pasture lands. A single trail meandered down the

length of the gorge floor, then branched out into dozens of

trails when it reached the grasslands. A group of shepherds

strolled down the gorge trail, chatting with one another,

followed by a long, winding river of sheep. At the forks of the

trail, the shepherds shook hands and separated, each taking a

different path as they headed out into the grasslands. Roy

recounted the fascinating sight that followed.

As the

shepherds headed their separate ways, the mass of sheep streaming

behind them automatically divided into smaller flocks, each flock

stringing down the branch trail behind its appropriate shepherd.

When the various shepherds and their flocks were distanced from

each other by a few hundred yards, each shepherd turned to scan

his own sheep, noting that some strays had been left behind and

were wandering in confusion among the rocks and brush.

Then one of the

shepherds cupped his hands around his mouth and called in a

strange, piercing cry, "Ky-yia-yia-yia-yia." At his

shout, a couple of stray lambs perked up their ears and bounded

toward his voice. Then a second shepherd tilted back his head

calling with a distinctly different sound,

"Yip-yip-yip-yipoo-yip." A few more strays hurried

straight toward him. Then another called his strays with a

shrill, "Hoot-hoot-hoot!" Each shepherd, in turn,

called. Each of the strays, hearing a familiar voice, knew

exactly which shepherd he should run to. "In fact," my

friend Roy marveled, "none of the wandering sheep seemed to

notice any voice but the voice of his own shepherd."

This is what

Jesus meant when he said, "My sheep listen to my

voice," but "do not recognize a stranger's

voice." The sheep pick his voice out of a cacophony of

voices and follow it. The shepherd "calls his own sheep by

name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he

goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know

his voice."

This is the

essence of spiritual leadership: sheep following a shepherd

because they know and trust him. This kind of trust and

allegiance can be gained only one way—by a shepherd touching

his sheep, carrying them, handling them, tending them, feeding

them—to the extent that he smells like them.

When the

apostle Peter instructed church leaders on how to lead, he spoke

of Jesus as "the Chief Shepherd." We must not miss

Peter's point. Jesus, the Chief Shepherd is our model: he is

the archetype, the blueprint, for the way modern, Christian

leadership gets done.


contemporary believers instinctively warm to Jesus'

comforting words of sheep and shepherding. Because Jesus laid his

life down for us, he woos us and wins our trust, our affection,

and our loyalty.

Good spiritual

shepherds today imitate the Chief Shepherd. Like him, they

attract flocks through loving service and authentic

relationships. Like him, they feed and protect their flocks. They

know their flocks and their flocks know them. They are trusted as

men and women who are committed enough to put their lives on the

line, daily, for the precious people they lead.

The Apostles as


After modeling

shepherd leadership, Jesus passed the model on to the apostles.

Three times in one brief conversation, Jesus charged Peter

(possibly as a representative of the entire apostolate):

"Feed my lambs," "Take care of my sheep," and

"Feed my sheep." By implication he is saying,

"Adopt my spiritual leadership style."

Later, he told

the Father, "As you sent me into the world, I have sent

them." One would find it hard to believe that after three

years of watching Jesus and being coached by him—and now

commissioned by him—that these twelve men would invent new

leadership strategies. Jesus had modeled the shepherd style of

leadership, and this is what they used in their lives and modeled

to others.


Leaders as Shepherds

Both Peter and

Paul passed the shepherd model of leadership on to us. Paul

pleaded with the leaders of the church in Ephesus,

Keep watch over

yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made

you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought

with his own blood.

Again Peter


Be shepherds of

God's flock that is under your care . . . eager to serve;

not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to

the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive

the crown of glory that will never fade away.

Let me grab the

modern church leader by the literary ears: this shepherd metaphor

was passed on to us intentionally! By the time Paul and Peter

call church leaders "shepherds," the shepherd motif had

gathered centuries of significance. A massive iceberg of divine

meaning had accumulated across the Bible and now lay below the

surface of this word. Peter and Paul are invoking a whole

theology of spiritual leadership, not merely throwing in a

colorful figure of speech.

So I told my

modern friend, who had trouble with ancient shepherds, "I

guess I'll stick with the shepherd idea. Seems better to try

and help us both understand what the shepherd model is about than

to butcher my Bible and run the risk of distorting God's


This metaphor

and its implications are worth pondering. No question: some spade

work lies ahead of those who unearth this pastoral, rural

metaphor and connect it with our hi-tech, urban experience;

however, a little digging is well worth the effort because what

we uncover is indispensable to a clear, biblical understanding of

spiritual leadership.

The Relational

Basis of Shepherding

The Biblical


While some may

not feel comfortable thinking of certain people as sheep and

others as shepherds, our discomfort will likely disappear when we

realize that the shepherding model revolves around the

relationship between the shepherd and his flock. It is not a

figure of strong over weak or "lords" over servants.

Quite the contrary. The shepherd figure is one of love, service,

and openness.


Middle-Eastern shepherds lived in the pasture with the flock and

were as much a part of the land as the sheep were. Through a

lifetime of shared experience, shepherds nurtured enduring trust

relationships with their sheep.

When a tiny

lamb was born into the wilderness world, the shepherd took the

trembling newborn into his hands, warming it and caressing it.

Among the first sensations felt by the shivering lamb was the

tender hands of the shepherd. The gentle voice of the shepherd

was one of the first sounds to awaken the lamb's delicate


The shepherd

lived with the lambs for their entire lives—protecting them,

caressing them, feeding and watering them, and leading them to

the freshest pools and the most luxuriant pastures—day and

night, year in and year out. So by the time the lamb grew to

"ewe-hood" or "ram-hood," it naturally

associated the touch of the shepherd's hands and the sound

of the shepherd's voice with "green pastures" and

"still waters," with safety, security, love, and trust.

Each sheep came to rely on the shepherd and to know his voice and

his alone. They followed him and no one else.

Of course, the

lambs understood clearly who was in charge. Occasionally, the

shepherd might tap an unruly lamb on the ear with a

shepherd's crook. But this was a love tap, embraced in an

enfolding circle of relationship. The shepherd smelled like


When the

day's grazing was done and night was approaching, the

shepherd would gather the sheep together and lead them into a

protective fold. Some were crude, makeshift circles of brush,

stick, and rocks, forming barricades four or five feet

high—safe little fortresses in the wilderness. Others were

limestone caves in the hillsides. Even today, in Palestine, one

can see roughly constructed, temporary sheepfolds dotting the

pastoral landscape. But each circle is incomplete, broken at one

place to form an opening into the fold. Beside this portal the

shepherd would take his place as he gathered his flock into the

fold for the night, at times physically becoming the


Part of the

nighttime ritual was the gentle inspection of each, individual

lamb. One by one, each lamb would come under the shepherd's

rod for review. Each would feel the shepherd's hands and

hear his voice speaking its name. Under the care of the shepherd,

the sheep would "come in and go out, and find pasture."


evening my friend, Yellow-Wool. You look tired. Long day?

C'mon inside and rest. And you, Ragged-Ear, let me pull that

tick from your cheek. Come in, Spotted-Face, Broken-Foot,

Shiny-Nose . . . " until all the sheep were snuggled inside

the safety of the fold for another night.

With the whole

flock examined and bedded down, finally, the shepherd himself

would lie down, stretching his body across the opening. So, the

shepherd literally, physically became the door! His body kept the

sheep in and the dangers of the night out. No sheep could wander

into danger because the shepherd's body held them in. Wolves

and robbers could enter to harm the flock only over the dead body

of the shepherd. Some claim that, even in modern times, morning

will occasionally find scattered sheep, without a shepherd. Upon

investigation, a bleeding, battle-worn shepherd will often be

found somewhere nearby—sometimes even a dead one. The

shepherd would literally lay "down his life for the


What a

compelling and fitting model for leadership. No wonder the

shepherd metaphor is a constant theme of the Bible. And along

with the other two models we'll look at—mentor and

equipper—its root is in relationship and its model is Jesus.


Contemporary Shepherd

Grab your

pencil. Get ready to circle the next profound phrase. A shepherd

is someone who has a flock. As obvious as that may sound, it is

frequently overlooked—for many church "leaders"

function in name or office only and in reality have no flock.


naturally gather around food, protection, affection, touch, and

voice. Biblical shepherds are those who live among the sheep;

serve the sheep; feed, water, and protect the sheep; touch and

talk to the sheep—even lay down their lives for the sheep.

Biblical shepherds smell like sheep.

One shepherdess

who smells like sheep is my wife Carolyn. Carolyn frequently

"adopts" lonely young singles who move to our area.

"Tim" was one of them. Our circle of friends loved Tim

for his fun personality and his servant heart. We all quickly

became very attached to him. Eventually, Tim confided to Carolyn

and me that he had a serious, life-threatening illness. As the

illness progressed, he and Carolyn became especially close. She

spent countless hours with him in his final weeks—often just

hugging and holding him like her own child. Outside of his own

loving family, she was one of the very last to touch Tim before

he died. The following note from Carolyn was read at Tim's


My friend,

Sunday, when I kissed you on the forehead, you looked into my

eyes and said, "Thank you."

But it is I who

should thank you. Thank you for the way I saw your life grow in

Christ. Thank you for sharing a day last year helping me decorate

my Christmas tree. Thank you for the blackberry cobbler on my

birthday. Thank you for the Weatherford peaches you brought by

early one morning. Thank you for asking that I be present when

the elders called a special meeting to pray for your healing.

Today, I

celebrate, and I ask everyone who loved you to celebrate with me.

This was true

shepherding by a lady who touches her flock personally and deeply

and is touched by them as well.

Church leaders

who shepherd well will foster congregational infrastructures that

leave them plenty of time and opportunity for flock-building. A

good deal of their leadership will be hands-on and

personal—for this is how flocks are formed.

The shepherd

and flock relationship eloquently implies at least three

qualities of spiritual leadership: availability, commitment, and

trust. This is how spiritual flocks are formed today.


Require Availability

Two of my

warmest memories of "available" shepherds find Wally

Bullington walking around in them. Wally was a football coach; he

is now retired, but is still known by most people as

"coach." Wally shoots straight, but always with love

and warmth and follow-through.

One memory

comes from a church-wide father/child canoe trip on the Guadelupe

River. Two kids came along who had no dad at home. Wally spent

hours with them—teaching them to tie flies, paddle canoes,

catch fish, set up tents, and more.

The other

memory involves the son of a single-parent mother. When this

young boy's parents were accused of a crime, he felt

socially cut off from everyone. In addition, it appeared that he

might have to drop out of his much-loved private school. Many

afternoons found Wally throwing a football with this boy on a

vacant lot.

Years later,

both boys, now men, still see Wally as a father figure and stay

in touch with him for counsel and love. He touched many others as

well. Shepherd Wally built long relationships with these lambs

and earned their trust, affection, and loyalty. Because he made

himself accessible and available, these sheep know Wally's

voice and follow him. Authentic, spiritual bonding like this is

as real as family blood ties—maybe more so—and in some

ways, just as irreplaceable. Around this shepherd, a flock

gathered across the years—a flock that authentically loves

him, depends on him, follows him, and listens to his voice.


Require Commitment


sheep requires a long-term, costly commitment of self, time, and

energy and the building of open, authentic relationships.

Shepherding is no easy task. Jesus, the "Chief

Shepherd," exemplified this commitment in his relationship

with the Twelve. Jesus chose them so that "they might be

with him," and for three years, they went everywhere he

went. They went with him to weddings, temples, villages, fields,

synagogues, and sickrooms. They even went fishing together. Jesus

changed them by his touch. He taught them, ate with them, and

protected them. He talked with them until they began to hear his

voice way down in their souls. Eventually, people could tell by

being around them that "they had been with Jesus."


shepherds rarely have the opportunity to spend such constant time

with their sheep; but the intentionality of Christ, his

relational approach, his commitment—these we can emulate.

Jim is

absolutely unavailable on Wednesday nights to anyone outside room

222. Why? Because he has committed this time to a Challenge group

led by Dr. Jan Dunn, which gathers in that room. Challenge is a

special group hosted by our church. It began as a divorce

recovery group, then broadened to include any persons struggling

with painful relationships, whether divorced, married, or single.

At first, Jim

went to encourage Jan. Jan is an experienced professor and

practitioner of marriage and family therapy, but she felt unsure

about whether her efforts would be affirmed by the church or

whether they would even help people. Jim committed his Wednesday

evenings, for an entire year, to being an affirming presence to

the Challenge group—and the group has flourished! Over this

past year, many have found recovery and healing—and God.

Jim's role is low profile; he rarely says anything except

when requested to lay hands on some specific anguishing person

and pray for him or her. However, his shepherding presence has

legitimated the whole effort. One in the group said, "Gosh.

Just the nonjudgmental, compassionate presence of an elder in the

room is as healing as anything else the class offers." Jim

gets sheep smell all over himself on Wednesday nights, and he

loves it. Jim definitely has "gathered a flock."


Require Trust

Sheep follow

their shepherd "because they know his voice." Through

hours and days and weeks and years spent with their shepherd,

sheep come to know from experience that they can trust him. Trust

is earned, not demanded, and it is built over time.

We trust Jesus

because he keeps his promise to be with us to the end of the

world. When we first come to him as trembling, newborn lambs, he

caresses us in his gentle, firm hands. His love warms us,

protects us, and feeds us. His spirit waters us, and he

continually talks to us. He never abandons us or misleads us. We

trust him because he is trustworthy.

So it is with

modern-day shepherds. Men and women who would lead a flock must

earn the trust of the sheep. When the lives of leaders are

invested in the lives of sheep, the sheep come to know and trust

their voices. This is what Jesus meant when he said that a

shepherd's sheep "follow him because they know his


Not only do the

sheep know the shepherd, but the shepherd also knows the

sheep—intimately. "He calls his own sheep by

name." Biblical leaders know faces and names—and

personal stories. Because the shepherd knows and serves them all,

they trust him, and he "leads them out."

Being placed in

a leadership position does not guarantee a following, but a trail

of sheep will usually follow the voice of a trusted shepherd.

Jack was

successful in business, visible in the community, had been a

deacon for years, and was loved by many people. But friends saw

alcohol sneak up on him, until his world began to

unravel—business, health, family. Finally, through an

intervention initiated by my wife, Carolyn, Jack checked into a

treatment center. Now aided by a twelve-step group, Jack has been

sober for more than eight years. Throughout the process, Jack

gained a whole new vision of God and a life of flourishing


Back on the

fifth anniversary of his sobriety, the shepherds of Jack's

church threw a huge "dinner party/sobriety

celebration." This did wonders for Jack and his family. And

the positive shepherding implications spread out from that

gesture—like circles from a rock thrown into a

pond—reaching the far corners of their 2,000-member church

and beyond. That one evening instilled hope and inspired trust in

those shepherds on the part of many more Christians who were

struggling with alcohol addictions. Acceptance and healing flowed

through one key shepherding act.

In a society

where trust is rarely extended or deserved, the

"shepherd" style of leadership—by its very

nature—inspires trust. God's design fosters trust in

church leaders and nurtures loyalty between church members.

Even after this

brief look at the biblical metaphor of shepherd, it's easy

to understand why God chose such a model for spiritual

leadership. Its implications are as applicable today as they were

two thousand years ago. When godly, loving, gentle shepherds

first build authentic relationships with their flocks, then rise

up and "lead out," sheep hungry for biblical leadership

and wise guidance will willingly follow.


Excerpted from They Smell Like Sheep by Lynn Anderson Copyright © 1997 by Lynn Anderson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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They Smell Like Sheep 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
With sufficient depth for any theologian, but as down to earth as the parables of Jesus, this is a book that will inspire and challenge church leadership. The premise is startling in its simplicity -- The true shepherd spends a lot of time in the field with his sheep -- so much time that he smells like them. The true leader who models his life after Christ spends a great deal of time wherever his people are. Shepherding, according to Dr. Anderson, includes the dust and sweat and smell of the field. This is an easy book to read, a difficult and challenging book to implement.