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?”
“Love, my friend. Love is the lid that limits leadership.”
He nodded in agreement.
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