Read John 21:15-17
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (NRSV)
Church leaders rightly want to bring refreshment and vitality to congregations. To do this, they will introduce changes to the way the church functions. Such change will threaten some and empower others. Some will be welcome and some will not be welcome. No church can simply stay the same.
Problems arise when those same leaders merely strive for novelty. When routine of any sort is seen as an enemy. Problems arise when the leader imposes his or her own ideas on others and even worse, dresses them up as God’s divine revelation. The church then can become the leader’s plaything, an arena in which the latest ideas from the latest gurus can be tried out.
Someone once said that Jesus’ command to Peter as a future church leader was to feed my sheep, not experiment with my rats, not teach my dog new tricks. To treat the precious people of God as the means by which I advance my reputation or prove some church-growth theory is to corrupt leadership and reduce congregations to mere cannon fodder.
To bring in needed change, a church leader needs to show he or she loves the people and that the people can trust them not to simply use them to fill rosters or staff pet programmes. A church leader is to be a humble shepherd not a noisy sheepdog.