FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
WATCHING OVER THE FLOCK
June 8, 2011
Today’s reading: Acts 20:28-38
The task of servant leaders is not only to lead, to form, to pastor, but also to protect and watch over the flock. The servant leader is a shepherd, looking over God’s sheep, accountable to the Chief Shepherd.
Paul warns, “savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock.” (Acts 20:29). The enemy attacks those who threaten his dominion (these are the evangelizers), and he tries to weaken or destroy those who oppose him. How many in the Church have these savage wolves already devoured? There are the unrepentant sinners, there are the nominal or lapsed Christians, there are those who may still go through the motions but no longer live for Christ.
Further, there is the enemy within. “And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them.” (Acts 20:30). There are those Catholics who favor the reproductive health bill, or even divorce, and will even be at the forefront of having anti-life and anti-family bills legalized. There are the dissidents in the Church, including theologians, Catholic teachers, even bishops, who work to undermine the Magisterium, even attacking the Holy Father in the process. There are the top leaders in CFC, who veered away, disobeyed the bishops, and attacked those who were working for restoration to our authentic charism.
Thus, servant leaders are to keep watch “over the whole flock of which the holy Spirit has appointed (them) overseers” (Acts 20:28b). It is a God-appointed task. They are to be overseers. They are to stand in the very place of God. They are to have the same concern for the flock as Jesus did, even to the point of giving their lives.
How do servant leaders watch over the flock?
First, they must know what they have been tasked to do, how important their work is, how much God is depending on them. What is their work? They are to “tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28c). Jesus suffered a horrible death and shed his precious blood, so that we might experience salvation, and be brought back into the family of God. Once there in the Church, servant leaders must work to keep them inside, growing and thriving. Jesus wants no one to be lost.
Second, they must be vigilant (Acts 20:31a). They must be wary and watchful.
* They must be aware of the wiles of the devil, who can even come as an angel of light. They must know that Satan is the father of lies, and the enemy is able to deceive many through lies, half-truths, disinformation, etc.
* They must know that the enemy never rests, that the enemy is able to exploit even the smallest dissatisfaction or hurt or conflict among the faithful, that the enemy in fact oftentimes causes conflict among top leaders.
* They must know that people need to continually grow in righteousness and discipleship, with the ideal of God’s very own holiness, and to not grow is to backslide.
* Servant leaders must be prayerful, asking for God’s own wisdom and discernment in helping them watch over the flock.
Third, they must be persistent in teaching what is right and just and true, especially in the continuing formation of servant leaders. Paul told the presbyters, “remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears.” (Acts 20:31b).
* They must realize that the strength of the body depends on the strength of each and every member, and especially each and every leader. They look not only to their part in the work, but have concern for everything and everyone else as well. They must want leaders to succeed, and not be in competition with them.
* They must not back down in the face of opposition from dissenters or complainers. They must know what is right, and unceasingly keep at it, “for years, night and day.”
* They must greatly desire the proper formation of leaders, taking such task to heart. They must come before the Lord in humility, acknowledging their own sinfulness and lack of power, and beg the Lord “in tears” to help them at their task.
Fourth, they must also keep watch over themselves (Acts 20:28a).
* They must know that they are special targets of attack by the enemy. They must not be overconfident, lest they fall.
* They must be leaders who are truly servants, unmindful and not desirous of power, position, acclaim. They must not have an personal agenda. “I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.” (Acts 20:33). They must be careful not to lord it over their subordinates, even as they exercise authority in the Lord.
* They must walk in integrity of life, along the path of holiness, looking to perfection unto the Father.
* They must have supportive fraternal relationships with other servant leaders.
Finally, after they have done all that they can through the power of God given to them, they are to entrust the presbyters to God, who Himself called them to serve Him. At the end of the day, it is God’s grace and God’s blessing that will change minds and hearts, that will build up, that will form and transform. “And now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up” (Acts 20:32a).
After all the teaching and formation and admonition and guidance, servant leaders turn to God in prayer, private as well as communal. As seniors we worship, in our households as well as in our assemblies. We look to the Chief Shepherd, whose work we do, and whose strength we ask for. “When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all.” (Acts 20:36).
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