I like metaphors because they encourage the imagination to run wild rather than just focus on a definition. In the case of leadership, I like three primary metaphors that shed light on the role of a leader without confining leadership to the definition. Here they are.


Let your imagination run wild here. Do you think a shepherd ever fed a sheep in Jesus’s time? Never. The role of the shepherd wasn’t to feed the sheep, but to ensure they were in pastures where they could feed themselves and be safe from predators. And why was it so important to make sure the sheep had food? To make sure they grew and produced wool.

Now give this a thought – sheep produce more sheep; shepherds do not. Therefore, the role of the laity is to reproduce themselves.


Midwives assist parents in the birth of their child and would never think of asking the mother if she wanted to give birth or not. They know that birthing the child is a life or death situation. In the same way, when I think of the pastor as a spiritual midwife I think of one who assists people in the birth of the gift God has given them and in no way would a pastor ask if the person wanted to give birth because the pastor knows it is a life and death issue. In the same way, a spiritual midwife would never ask a church if it wanted to grow. A church either grows or dies: it’s that simple.

The Way

Christians were first known as “people of the Way.” Christians were those who followed the Way, and we know the Way was Jesus. Over the centuries, Christianity has shifted from being a people of the Way to a people of the Book. We have put more emphasis on knowing the content of the Scriptures than we have on being the incarnation of the Scriptures to those around us. We have become so content-oriented that classes and courses have almost totally taken the place of mentoring and having apprentices who learn the trade of living like Jesus lived. That’s why I agree with Scott Boren in his book MissioRelate where he encourages every small group to adopt a monthly mission project. It’s not enough just to know the Bible; it’s time to learn how to live it.

Question: How do these three metaphors change or add meaning to your ministry? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

You Might Also Like

Additional Resources