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Ministry in Focus – Faithful Leadership

Article 2 in a five part Series on Ministry
By Paul de Plata

Interact Magazine 1992

Volume 3 Number 1

I have see them in a shop somewhere! And when I see them again I intend to purchase them. What are they? A set of sheets and matching pillow-slips with a pattern comprised of little green sheep heading in every direction.


This was a natural chain reaction of thought. Sheep reminded me of shepherds and shepherds reminded me of pastors. And not a few people think that pastors are paid to chase sheep. The reason? ‘Pastor’ means ‘shepherd’ and shepherds chase sheep, so pastors chase sheep.

The 23rd psalm is helpful at this point. It does not say, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd….. He chases me by still waters.’ No, it says, ‘he leads me’. Eastern shepherds lead sheep and Western shepherds chase them, usually on a tractor or motor-bike in this mechanised era! Fortunately, the Bible is an Eastern book.


But the big question is, ‘How do you get people to follow?‘ That is important because if nobody is following, you are not leading.


After trying different approaches I have come to the following conclusions. We should:

  • Start with people where they are, not where we think they should be.

  • Go in a direction they are prepared to move, rather than the direction we have decided they’re going to move.

  • Move at the speed of their choosing, not the pace of our dictating.


As I have shared these conclusions, some people have cried, ‘Foul!’ ‘That’s not leadership,’ they object, ‘That’s capitulation.’


‘All right,’ I respond, ‘Let’s try it the other way!’

  • Start where they aren’t and expect them to be where they should be.

  • Lead them in a direction where they have no interest in going but expect them to get excited about it.

  • Move at a speed that they cannot or will not keep up with owing to many other demands on their time and energy.


The net result will be that you are exactly where you think they should be, but you are there in splendid isolation, which means no-one followed so you didn’t lead.

Rev Paul de Plata is the minister of the Islington Baptist Church, N.S.W.

© Paul de Plata  (1 November 1991)

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