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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Leadership (03/14/05)

TITLE: Are you a shepherd or cowboy?
By Kenny Paul Clarkson


Somehow his puppy-dog look seemed out of character for Marv. He was a big man with a booming voice that commanded attention. His broad shoulders and towering stature spoke of his college-football days.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I preach the word, love my congregation; work hard.”

“But you’re losing people,” I guessed.

“Yeah,” he answered. “And I don’t know why.”

He always knew God had called him to preach; but the corporate life paid the bills. So he waited until his children were grown and his finances stable. Then he answered the call to pastor a small church in a rural Indiana.

“There are two kinds of leaders, Marv,” I began. “The first is a shepherd. He makes no demands; just gets in front of his sheep and leads the flock.”

“And the other?” he wondered.

“The other is a cowboy.”

“A cowboy?” he asked.

I smiled. “The cowboy doesn’t lead his flock, but rather, he drives the herd.”

“And you’re saying I’m a cowboy?”

“What I’m saying, Marv, is that God has entrusted you with a flock of sheep, not a herd of cattle. The shepherd walks in front and leads by example. The cowboy rides from behind and leads by intimidation.”

“I don’t think of myself as a cowboy,” he countered. “I think of myself as a coach.”

Marv didn’t realize it at the time, but he was grasping my point.

“I’ve heard Bobby Knight,” I explained. “And I’ve heard Billy Graham.”


“And I’ve heard you” I leaned forward for emphasis. “You ain’t no Billy Graham.”

Marv responded with a smile of his own. He had asked for my advice because, he explained, he knew I would be brutally honest. Though younger, my twelve years in the ministry provided insight the older pastor craved. He pled for more.

“You can’t bully sheep,” I added.

“Okay. So you’re saying I’m driving the herd, not leading the flock. I running people off; making them mad.”

“You’re not making them mad,” I mused. “You’re making them Methodists.”

Marv laughed out loud. A number of his people had joined the United Methodist Church down the road.

“I final thought,” I added. “There is a lid that limits leadership. Whether you are the head of a household, a civil government or a church. You know what that lid is?”

Marv shrugged.

“Love, my friend. Love is the lid that limits leadership.”

He nodded in agreement.

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This article has been read 1030 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Karen Deikun03/21/05
Good analogy and a lot to think about in this article.
Leticia Caroccio03/21/05
Good story. Shepherds and cowboys, huh? Interesting and thought-provoking. Nice job.
Dixie Phillips 03/22/05
Great job! Way to use humor to get your point across. Enjoyed it very much!
donna robinson03/26/05
Absolutely a great read with humor and the guidance to tell the difference for a minister with the right heart but wrong style. I loved that line "no you're making them Methodists" Just enjoyed this and felt like it was a point well taken for pastors starting out.
Delores Baber03/27/05
Loved this story! Full of wisdom and insight. Another thing that drives the sheep away is when th pastor thinks shearing is a weekly thing. He's so busy shearing he doesn't have time to feed them. Hungry, sheared sheep. How ofen do God's people feel that way? Good presentation of the imporance of a shepherd's heart.