Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from The Shepherd Leader at Home: Knowing, Leading, Protecting, and Providing for Your Family by Timothy Z. Witmer, used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.]
As we begin walking through the four foundational shepherding functions of knowing, leading, providing for, and protecting your family, it is important to recognize that they represent fundamental human needs. For example, the concept of knowing and being known speaks to the fundamental need for relationship. Research has demonstrated an infant’s need to connect with his or her parents early on in order to be properly adjusted, or even to survive. For most of us, something as simple as an invitation to an event or gathering raises the question, who is going to be there? Why do we ask this? We are concerned because we want to go somewhere where we have the connection of relationship, where we know and are known. On the other hand, some of the worst experiences people can have are described in terms of loneliness, isolation, or alienation. These terms are just a sample of the large glossary of words that express missing or strained relationships.
Think about it. Being made in the image of God, man was made first to be in relationship with his Creator. Unfortunately, this fellowship was broken when man sinned. Things changed from that point forward. The good news is that, from the very beginning, the Lord took the initiative to restore that relationship. The relational element in God’s redemptive work is clearly seen in the shepherding metaphor. “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalms 23) highlights this covenantal privilege of relationship and mutual knowledge.
As the consummate shepherd who comes into the world, Jesus describes the mutual knowledge between a shepherd and his sheep that characterizes his relationship with his people. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” ( John 10:14). This shepherd knew that this vital relationship with God could be restored only through his death and resurrection.
One of the greatest fears when it comes to relationships is the fear of transparency. If you really knew me, would you still love me? My friend Steve Brown used to announce to his listeners, “If you knew me the way I know me, you wouldn’t want to listen to me preach.” He would quickly add, “If I knew you the way you know you, I wouldn’t want to preach to you!” Remarkably, the Lord knows everything about you and he loves you. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Jesus still knows all about our sins, doubts, and fears and he still loves us.
One of the greatest privileges we now have is to grow in our knowledge of him. For the sheep, this is foundational for every benefit of belonging to him. “Now this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). This is a great place to start. Can you see how much he loved you in the indescribable gift he gave that your relationship with him might be restored? The health and wholeness of our human relationships find their source in the wholeness of our relationship with the Lord through Jesus. I might add that strength, wisdom, and love for others are fueled by the vitality of our life in the Lord. His work on our behalf enables us to grow in our relationship not only with our God, but also with others, especially our wives and children.
Many of the problems in the church can be traced to problems in the families - families that are like sheep without a shepherd. In The Shepherd Leader at Home, Timothy Witmer applies a biblical framework to the husband and father's leadership in the home. He introduces four categories of shepherding: knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting. Targeting men who want to shepherd their families well, Witmer offers biblical counsel and practical direction that is sure to resonate and make a difference in families today.