Shepherd Leadership (Gareth Southgate)

Jeremiah 23: 1-16

Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56

Following the World Cup England, Manager Gareth Southgate is a national hero. We've even renamed a London tube station after him! So, why is it that the British public admire and respect Gareth Southgate so much? Maybe its because he's a Shepherd?

The 'shepherd' was a common image in 1st century Palestine. much like the image of the football coach today perhaps. Jesus referred to Himself as 'The Good Shepherd' (John 10: 11-18).

Drawing on our readings for this Sunday, we can identify three qualities which make a good shepherd.

1. The good shepherd cares

'...he [Jesus] had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd...' (Mark 6: 34)

Jesus, Mark tells us, had 'compassion' on the people because they were like 'sheep without a shepherd'. The Greek word for compassion applied here is splagchnizomai, which literally translates as 'to be moved as to one's bowels', or to care at a gut-level (the bowels being viewed as the seat of love and pity). 

Gareth Southgate displayed a compassion towards his team, the fans, and towards the nation itself. His caring spirit extended towards the opposition, most notably when he comforted Columbia's Mateus Uribe after he missed the deciding penalty, with which Southgate could empathise, havng famously missed a crucial penalty himself in the Euro 96 semi-final against Germany. Empathy and an understanding of failure are essential to compassionate leadership.

2. The good shepherd gathers

'I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.' (Jeremiah 23: 3)

A good shepherd gathers in order to send out. Picture Gareth Southgate gathering his squad together during key moments of the tournament, like he did in the changing room before games and at half-time, before sending them out to complete the task.

The word 'Church' literally means 'gathering' (ekklesia). We gather together to be re-sourced (returned to The Source/God) in order that we might be sent out into the world to reach and serve humanity in Jesus' name and in the power of His Spirit. 'Go in peace to love and serve the Lord', we say at the close of every Communion service.

3. The good shepherd leads

'I will raise uop shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing...and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land' (Jeremish 23: 4 & 5)

Leadership is shepherding. The good shpherd leads the sheep. Which is the reason why our Bishop's carry a shepherds crook. 

Our country is facing a crisis of leadership. It is a crisis of leadership in every area of public life, most notably in the political sphere. We are like sheep without shepherds, which is probably why Gareth Southgate's leadership qualities impressed us so. It was his selflessness, perhaps, which stood out the most. We are longing for leaders who will put people before personal and ideological ambition.

It has been said that you that know that you are leader simply because people are following your lead. The whole nation were following Gareth Southgate, and the team modelled on his leadership. 

Caring. Gathering. Leading. Qualities of the Shepherd Leader. Qualities which we can all show whoever we are and wherever we are - in the home, community, schoolyard, workplace and church.

Keith Hitchman, Vicar

Sunday 22 July 2018