Over the last two weeks, I had the joy of touring Israel with a group of people comprised mostly of members of the choir at The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Virginia. The tour was led by Phil Barfoot and the team at Celebration Concert Tours. They are simply the BEST team for this type of ministry experience with a choir.
One of my first observations from the trip was the shepherd relationship that the Worship Pastor of that church, Dale Wilbur, has with his people. Dale and his wife, Erin, have been there five years. In that time, they have built strong bonds of friendship and discipleship with these folks. It was a joy to observe.
One of the highlights was the baptism at the Jordan River. I was blessed to give small assistance to Dale as he baptized 60 members of his choir. As each one approached for their moment, Dale spoke a word of blessing and appreciation over them individually. His comments were personal, emotional, and deeply spiritual. I was moved by the exchanges between this shepherd leader and his people.
I made this observation years ago – We are not called to lead music. We are called to lead people. And that was on full display over the course of our tour.
Here are five signs of a healthy relationship between a shepherd and the people he leads. I saw all of these on display on the trip.
- The shepherd knows his people. It was obvious from the moment we gathered at the airport in Tel Aviv this shepherd was engaged with his people. He was available for interaction and constantly engaged in meaningful conversations with all of his people.
- The shepherd can have fun and doesn’t take himself too seriously. This group of folks had fun with each other. And it all came down from a leader who was willing to be a big part of it.
- The shepherd cares about each one. Throughout the trip, I heard, over and over, little details about each person from Dale – what they were going through and what their lives are like. He knew. And he cared.
- The shepherd is not afraid to lead. Over the course of a tour with multiple ministry assignments, lots of things can go wrong and not according to plan. Not every decision will please every person. But the shepherd is trusted and makes decisions for the group without losing the trust of his people.
- The shepherd is prepared. The shepherd was so prepared that when the spiritual moments came, he was able to put everything into a spiritual context. He was ready to lead when the moments presented the opportunity for impact. And, musically speaking, when the challenges associated with leading music in a variety of settings emerged, Dale was prepared to lead musically and inspire his choir to rise above the circumstance and sing with heart and passion.
I loved touring the old City of Jerusalem. The Sea of Galilee was particularly meaningful to me as we visited many places of Jesus’ earthly ministry. I’m sure I’ll reflect on the places and experiences of the trip for the rest of my life.
But the first blog I wanted to write was about the awesome blessing of watching a shepherd lead his people well. It was an amazing thing to witness.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.