Book Review: The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Z. Witmer

“The fundamental responsibility of church leaders is to shepherd God’s flock.”

In a culture flooded with churches, denominations, seminaries, and books, the role of a pastor is often dictated by the loudest cries for help in the church or the latest fad of the mega-church. While there are certain key responsibilities that elders fulfill, none is more important that being a shepherd leader. Timothy Witmer puts forth one of the most cogent arguments for returning to and emphasizing the role of shepherd leader in the church.

He begins by giving the biblical and historical arguments that show the importance of an elder being a shepherd leader. The Bible uses the imagery of Shepherd and sheep in many places and yet in too many churches the pastor is viewed primarily as a CEO. Witmer is careful to walk through many texts arguing for a return to four essential ministry objectives. These objectives are not new or flashy, but biblical and foundational to Christian ministry. These elements for the shepherd’s relationship with the sheep are to know, feed, lead, and protect them.

Each of these elements are expounded on in detail in both the macro and micro sense of how an elder team needs to carry out these responsibilities. Witmer is wise to walk through both the congregational level and on an individual level as many churches may be strong in one area and lack in another. The fact that being a shepherd leader requires both macro and micro knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting makes the plurality of elders that much more essential and persuasive.

The third and final section of the book quickly moves through each of the key elements of being a shepherd leader while giving examples and applications for how a church can implement the ideas presented earlier in the book. The application is not heavy handed but given in an open-handed way so as to help an elder team take quick practical steps to growing in these areas. Witmer writes in such a way as to be helpful rather than judgmental.

The Shepherd Leaderis a must read for those desiring to be faithful in the call to pastor a church well. This book should be required reading for seminary students and prospective lay elders in any church. The biblical argumentation and faithfulness saturate each page of the book. Churches that desire to grow should read and help their elders begin to see the necessity of such leadership for the health of the body. The practical steps of application help get elders off to a running start at implementation without being overly formulaic. This book should be put into every pastors’ hands to remind them of the call that God has placed upon him to be a shepherd leader.

Review by Caleb Nedimyer

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