Book Review: The Shepherd Leader

Timothy Witmer.  The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church.  Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010.

The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church by Timothy Witmer is one of the best books that you will read on the topic of shepherding.  The best way that I know how to describe the book is that it is a modern day version of Charles Jefferson’s The Minister as Shepherd—and that is a high compliment.  The book is written to address what Witmer refers to as the “a shepherding crisis, or should I say a failure to shepherd.” (1)  As Witmer explained and addressed this failure to shepherd I realized that this is not only a problem for the church at large.  It is a problem for my church.  It is a problem for me!  “The simple thesis of this book is, ‘The fundamental responsibility of church leaders is to shepherd God’s flock.” (2)  Time and time again Witmer comes back to this thesis by calling pastors to fulfill their duties.  As a pastor I was stretched, challenged, and convicted by the constant call for pastors to shepherd the flock of God.

Witmer does an excellent job of painting a biblical picture of what a shepherd should look like.  He does an equally excellent job of practically applying that in today’s church.  Personally, one of the most helpful aspects of this book was Witmer’s explanation of the difference between “Macro Shepherding” and “Micro Shepherding.”

Macro-shepherding refers to those important leadership functions that relate to the entire church.  It has in view the elder’s responsibility to provide “oversight” of the flock as a whole.  Its concern is to address the corporate concerns of the congregation.  These are important decision-making, vision-casting, and administrative functions that the elders must carry out for the health of the flock. (103)

Micro-shepherding, on the other hand, refers to the personal ministry of the elders among the sheep.  It has in view the oversight of particular sheep for whom they have been given responsibility. (103)

These categories are helpful because both are necessary, and because it is easy to neglect one of these two areas of shepherding and fool yourself into thinking you are doing your job.

The only caution that I would add is the frequent distinction Witmer makes between “ruling elders” and “teaching elders.”  To his credit, Witmer is quick to emphasize that all elders must do the work of shepherding.  However, I would argue that the two categories of elder are not the most biblical way to understand the office of elder.