Biblical leadership is often discussed but rarely understood. “If a man desires the position of [an overseer], he desires a good work” (1 Tim. 3:1). Too often, men are eager for the office but not for the work involved! There are three series of sevens outlined in John’s writings: seven signs; seven “I Am” statements in John’s Gospel and the seven churches in Revelation, respectively. Midway through each series, the Lord masterfully demonstrates the qualifications of a true Shepherd.
The Shepherd feeds the sheep
John 6:1-14 recounts the fourth sign, the Lord Jesus feeding the 5,000. This sign is notable for being the only sign written about in all four Gospels. It is also a master class in how the Lord expects His flock to be fed.
In estimating the needs of the sizable crowd, we are given dueling perspectives: that of Philip and that of the Lord Jesus, respectively. The Lord sees potential while Philip only sees a problem (v.7). Mark’s account confirms that the Lord “was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd” (Mk. 6:34). Are we truly moved by the needs of God’s flock? Spiritually short sighted leaders like Philip will miss out on the miracle. Rather, may we view the masses with the sensitivity of our Shepherd.
Next, the Lord makes the people sit in a place where “there was much grass” (Jn. 6:10). Mark’s account specifically says that the grass was green (Mk. 6:39). Why do you think the narrative bothers to tell us that? I submit that the Holy Spirit is drawing our attention to God’s pasture. Indeed, the events of John 6 seem to parallel Psalm 23: He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul…
Robert Gamble writes, “The caring shepherd will ‘create the condition’ for the flock to lie down. Sheep will only lie down of their own accord, when there is tranquility and freedom from anxiety. How important, in the spiritual flock, to ensure that the flock is being fed on the fresh, green pasture of the Word with no contaminating or disturbing influence” 
The 5,000 listed in the story only accounted for the men (v.10). Likely, they had their families with them. If your assembly is thriving with the 18-30 demographic, consider yourself a blessed minority! The unfortunate truth is that many of our young people have left for other pastures. Granted, departures aren’t always the fault of the leadership. After all, many would even leave the Lord that day (v.66)!
Rejuvenating the worn-out pasture of an assembly doesn’t mean compromising the teaching of God’s Word. Our Shepherd created the optimal conditions for the multitude to receive His miracle food. May our local elders purpose to do the same.
The Shepherd bleeds for the sheep
Concurrent to the signs, the Lord is also giving a series of “I Am” statements in John. The fourth such statement should be the charter for all leaders; “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). This verse is often recited when witnessing in evangelism. I believe that elders can better edify the church if they take this verse seriously.
As noted earlier, the office of an overseer is a good work, but it is work no less. This can be challenging if we tend to be possessive of our time. When it comes to the sheep, the work of an elder must extend beyond three hours on a Sunday. Is your door open to the needs of the flock? In my teens, I was discipled by my elder. Even though he was a young husband and father, his door always seemed to be open. Later, when I became a husband and dad, I understood how challenging that must have been!
When was the last time you asked a young person to accompany you to a conference? I attended my first men’s conference with my elder half a lifetime ago and I’m still attending. When I started an outreach Bible study in high school, I asked a retired elder to devote his time to lead the study and it ran for a number of years. When I experienced a severe trial in high school, that elder was the only person in whom I could confide. At times, I know that my immaturity and shortcomings must have tried their patience but I knew that my elders loved me nonetheless. All this investment in my life required these men to sacrifice their time and they were always there for me.
While it’s certainly true that the Lord gave His life for us at Calvary, His entire ministry was sacrificial in nature. The Lord expects no less from local elders, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
The Shepherd leads the sheep
In the book of Revelation, the Lord addresses seven churches in Asia Minor (Turkey) in Ch. 2-3. The fourth address is to the church at Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29). Thyatira is an example of a church lacking quality leadership. Although Jezebel’s influence was cited as the problem, the root cause was weak leadership, “you allow that woman Jezebel…to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Rev 2:20). The sheep were being fed all right, but with the wrong stuff!
The Son of God tells the church to correct the problem, or else He would (Rev 2:.22-23)! However, He promises that those who rule well in the church would rule with Him in the Millennium (Rev 2:26-28). Interestingly enough, the word “rule” in v.27 literally means “shepherd”. Sinful conditions warrant the elders to use the rod of iron, albeit sparingly and with the heart of a loving shepherd.
Many are enamoured by the prospect of “ruling” an assembly. But unless one is willing to feed the sheep and bleed for the sheep, he is unqualified to lead the sheep. May we follow in the footsteps of the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (1 Pet. 2:25).
 Gamble, Robert. Shepherd My Sheep
. Ambassador Productions, 1997