Sage and Trendwatcher. Manager and Entreprenuer. Leader and Shepherd. All of these traits have value in ministry. To be sure, there are others I could list, but the length of this post will already test the patience of my readers. What has God called you to be at this point in your life?
The sage is a person of wisdom earned from study and life experience. Usually the sage is in his or her senior years, although being retirement age does not automatically qualify a person for wisdom any more than being college age makes a young person relevant to his peers. We need sages. We ignore their input into our lives at our own peril. They have a sense of history lived. It is not merely theoretical for them. They have seen things. They have experienced a part of God’s redemptive story in the community. They make wonderful mentors to developing generations of young people.
The trendwatcher is that person who is acutely attuned to new ways of doing things, whether in music or media, communications or entertainment, to name a few. Most of these folks do not create trends, but they observe, adapt and deploy variations of someone else’s creation. A select few, rare indeed, actually design innovative content and methods which gain grassroots appeal and later mainstream acceptance. They are the trendsetters upon whom the trendwatchers focus their attention. Both would be wise to nurture connection to godly sages, just as those same sages value the creativity which God imparts to these young and not-so-young innovators.
The manager has gotten a bad rap in recent years, compared unfavorably to leaders or entreprenuers. This is unfortunate. Without skilled, stable and faithful managers to provide consistency and maturity to our endeavors, chaos would ensue. I call for a truce between the skillsets. Authentic leaders do not have a need to put down their managerial counterparts. They lift them up and encourage them. They recognize their contributions and refrain from harboring unrealistic expectations. Much of the recruiting problems in churches would be resolved if leaders would learn how to treat those who provide high level management with more respect and consideration.
Entreprenuers and leaders often are lumped into the same mold. They can go hand-in-hand, but not necessarily. It seems to me that entreprenuers tend to be designer personality types. Leaders can be that, but also are builders. Managers tend to be maintainers. Design in an organization has a limited time frame, unless of course you are constantly redesigning, in which case it will be the Extreme Organizational Makeover that never quite bore fruit from its design labors. Entreprenuers like to tread new territory, create new endeavors, discover new revenue streams to support their primary passions. Leaders like to cast vision for grand ideas and mobilize large groups of people toward that end, fulfilling therefore, not only the grand vision, but also the dreams of those who participate in the process and its success. Managers love to come alongside leaders and entreprenuers to take care of the many details necessary to fulfill the grand dream. They have caught the vision and want to be part of something larger than themselves, and are willing to labor in relative obscurity to make it happen, within reason.
Shepherds, on the other hand, do not quite fit into any of these molds. Yet that is what God called his overseers to be and do as they minister to the fledgling flocks of congregations scattering the Greco-Roman landscape, from Greece to Israel to Alexandria. Shepherds. Un-21st century. So irrelevant. So relevant. So agrarian. So human. And so apt. Although our methods have changed in multiple respects, we recognize the principle that human nature, at its core, is consistently the same. We are made in God’s image, and we marred that image through sin. Yet God provided a way of redemption through Jesus Christ, whereby our nature may be made righteous again because of his righteousness. Our role as shepherds of people is to guide them as lovingly, protectively, gently and firmly as real shepherds into a life of fruitful faith in Christ Jesus. Call it leading. Call it managing. You can even call it being a trendwatching entreprenuer with postmodern sensitivity. I don’t care.
Package it however you want within the appropriate rubric of biblical fidelity and missional attention to cultural relevance. But between you, me and the one or two other folks who will read this post, what the people really need is a shepherd who will lay his or her life down for them so that they might know Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Is that enough of a risk for you?