Shepherding the Shepherds: Applying the Gospel to the whole flock of God.

By Jason Gunter

Right now, on Amazon, there are more than 90,000 books in stock, with “leadership” in the title. And that’s just including works written in the English language. One or both of the following is true, people love to read about leadership, or people love to write about leadership. Finding a worthwhile read for the aspiring or seasoned leader is not a difficult task. However, in Paul Tripp’s latest work, Lead: 12 Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church, there is a timely appeal for leadership communities.

Among those who keep their finger on the pulse, it is no secret that we are experiencing leadership trauma within the evangelical world. With the rise of social media platforms, we have witnessed the fall of many prominent leaders. (That’s a topic for another book, note to self.)

The natural response we see, and are likely guilty of offering, lacks the one thing failed leaders need, the gospel. Christians, leaders, deacons, elders, and pastors have at least two things in common, a heart regenerated by the sovereign grace of God and the remaining taint of sin in the flesh.
That is the heart of this book.

Tripp reminds his readers that the shepherds of the flock are still part of the flock. Pastors never reach the point of arrival in the Christian faith any more than the parishioners. Tripp argues that leadership communities need the application and awareness of the great need for all sinners to be rescued by God’s transformative grace, leaders included.

Moving from cover to cover, Paul David Tripp pours the normative ideals and values of leadership communities through the gospel’s strain, sifting out the foundational character flaws of leadership culture. We find fragments of an indictment against leadership communities of churches far and wide, scattered in the bottom of the strain.

Pastors teach their congregants to stay ahead of their sins, know their weaknesses, and regularly confess for spiritual healing. It’s not a surprise when the confessions come. One thing a seasoned pastor knows is that the entanglement of sin in the life of a Christian is always far worse than it appears. So, congregants are ministered to with the same grace and mercy that continually flows from the finished work of Jesus Christ, applied by His Spirit.

The big question posed by Tripp is this. Within the leadership community, is the same culture present? Leaders are leaders for a reason. They have met the qualifications Scripture provides, but they are not sinless. Leaders are not without blind spots. They are not without the need for confession, and they are no less deserving of God’s grace when their lives become entangled in sin.

Perhaps, if the leadership community builds this culture, leaders wouldn’t fall as often or nearly as far. Leadership communities that don’t practice this and welcome this deny the very gospel truth that they profess.

“No leader is sin free, no leader lives above the great spiritual battle for the focus and rulership of his heart, and no leader has graduated from his need for grace. Every leader fails to live up to God’s standard in word, thought, or action somehow, someway, every day. Every leader still has moments when he thinks things that he should not think, desires what he should not desire, and acts or speaks in ways that are wrong… Here’s the bottom line: no leader in any ministry community anywhere is done, that is, completely formed into the image of Jesus Christ.”

Speaking personally, confessing a weakness or sin as a pastor to a pastor can be terrifying. It can also be a blessing of immense proportions that brings gospel fuel to ministry. When the shepherds of the flock shepherd each other well, there is longevity in the gospel work that gets accomplished; there is a life-giving example that the gospel applies to everyone.

If you have read much of Paul Tripp, you know, he does well at taking a topic and applying gospel principles to it. The problem that he is addressing is not a small one. As only he can do, he drenches these issues in gospel grace and brings encouragement to build the right character within the leadership community. Lead is a worthy read for churches and church leaders alike.