Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep

Share this:

Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep: Spiritual Leadership for the 21st Century.Howard Publishing, 2002.

Sequel: Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep, Volume 2

Referenced in: Summary

This book serves many purposes. focuses on two. First, this is a superb theology of pastoral care. It presents a compelling, practical, and a biblically rich case for ministry as defined by the metaphor of shepherding. Based on Anderson’s decades of pastoral care and mentoring, he argues that true spiritual leadership is not one of distant boardroom direction, but of intimate involvement with the sheep. Like shepherds who are out in the pasture, spiritual leaders “smell like sheep.” A modern classic on this theme.

Second, and more in keeping with the author’s intended purpose, this is unsurpassed as a development of the elder-shepherd role. I highly recommend it as the first read for those serving as elders or aspiring to that role. I have to be careful not to over-sell, because I believe in the book and the author too strongly. But in my opinion, this is the best book on shepherding available.

Elder-led church governance gets a lot of attention in church leadership literature, much of it coming from churches that have not traditionally operated with plural-elder congregational governance. Churches of Christ have had this setup from the beginning, and thoughtful practitioners have experienced enough of its bane and blessing to be able to speak with some degree of moral authority. Much of the literature stresses the importance of structural/positional authority for elders, which is certainly an important aspect of their role. But many congregations with elder-led traditions have experienced its tendency to devolve into an over-emphasis on positional authority and an under-emphasis on what Anderson calls moral suasion emerging from the elders’ example and relational/emotional investment with the sheep. Thus the deeply felt need for elders who indeed “smell like sheep.”

Among Churches of Christ and Christian Churches, as well as other fellowships, few books on the role of shepherds/elders have been as influential as this one. Other traditions that are introducing or reinstituting elder-led polity would also greatly benefit to avoid the errors and misuses that often attend the role. Anderson does not reject positional authority, but believes the metaphor of shepherding and the warnings not to “lord over” others (1 Peter 5; Matthew 20) demand a much more sensitive and less directive model than is practiced by many churches. But even this is not Anderson’s primary focus.

Anderson divides the book into two parts (from the summary on page 5). Part 1 focuses on three interrelated spiritual leadership models – shepherd, mentor, and equipper. Part 2 looks at the biblical teaching about elders and the sort of people they are to be – people of experience, character, and vision. Then it moves into a discussion of the “authority” of moral suasion in a credible life based on service, relationships, and a consistent faith-walk.

Here are a few classic quotes:

“Flocks naturally gather around food, protection, affection, touch, and voice. Biblical shepherds are those who live among the sheep; serve the sheep; feed, water, and protect the sheep; touch and talk to the sheep – even lay down their lives for the sheep. Biblical shepherds smell like sheep.” (22)

“Church leaders who shepherd well foster congregational infrastructures that leave them plenty of time and opportunity for flock-building. A good deal of their leadership will be hands-on and personal – for this is how flocks are formed.” (23)

“Jesus talked with them until they began to hear his voice way down in their souls.” (23)

“[Sheriff type leaders] cannot expect the love, affection, and loyalty of ‘a following.’ They sometimes resort to coercion in order to get cooperation, but in reality, they get mere compliance, at best, and rebellion, at worst.” (33)

“The CEO model works mostly behind closed boardroom doors – making decisions, tapping gavels, dispatching memos, and announcing edicts.” (35)

“Good equippers do it like Jesus did: recruit twelve, graduate eleven, and focus on three.” (88)

“The authority of an elder grows not out of a title emblazoned on a church letterhead, but out of the quality of the elder’s life.” (128)

[Quoting Carl Holladay] “The constituency of the episkopoi is a “flock” and their task is to “feed” it. Whatever is implied in ‘overseeing,” cannot be divorced from the role of ‘shepherding.’ …In fact, to whatever degree such terms as ‘superintendent,’ ‘overseer,’ ‘guardian,’ and ‘bishop’ are used to emphasize the rank of the position, to that degree they mitigate the true meaning of the term episkopoi.” (129)

“If a man’s life cannot stand the scrutiny of his wife and children, we dare not put our souls under his care.” (145)

“Today’s churches call for leaders who drive beyond their headlights and who design churches for people ‘who aren’t here yet,’ rather than defending models designed long ago to reach those who have long since come and gone and who don’t live here anymore.” (170)

“Think carefully about this, my friends. We may be robbing God’s people of the very spiritual guidance so desperately needed in our times, when we actually replace God’s shepherd model with our own corporate model. My dear brothers and sisters, please ponder this carefully: an ecclesiastical system that runs better when it sacrifices its biblical leadership function (shepherding, mentoring, equipping) to protect a non-biblical function (efficient management and administration) cannot be of God! Repeat: cannot be of God!” (176)

“Some unfortunate vocabulary has inflicted long-term damage to our understanding of spiritual leadership – words like rule, authority, submit, and obey.” (188)

“An elder who has to assert his authority usually doesn’t have much.” (206)

From the Publisher

What kind of leadership will effectively lead the church into the morally turbulent twenty-first century? The same kind of leadership that led it through the morally and politically chaotic first century. Shepherding.

This is the kind of leadership Jesus used, and this is the kind of leadership that will take his church where he wants it to go.

While the term “shepherd” produces warm images of love, care, and tenderness, it also describes a form of leadership that is perilously protective, dangerous, dirty, and smelly.

“Shepherd” is something that every follower of Christ, the Good Shepherd, is called to become.

Lynn Anderson, in this important book, leads us backwards in time to discover and identify the biblical leader for the future needs of the Christian community. Anderson’s deep dig for truth will concern, convict, and confront us about where leadership has been, and will set a new standard for where the future leader must go.

Part One: A Biblical Look at Spiritual Leadership Principles: The Sort of Things Leaders Do

Section One: Shepherds

  • Shepherds on the Hills of Bible History
  • Distorted Leadership Models
  • Fast-Lane Flocks and Cyber-World Shepherds

Section Two: Mentors

  • Those Who Have Walked a Long Time in the Same Direction
  • How to Mentor

Section Three: Equippers

  • “Use ‘Em or Lose ‘Em”
  • How the Chief Shepherd Equipped His Flock
  • Equipping through the Shared Life

Part Two: A Biblical Look at Elders: The Sort of People They Are

Section One: A Character Sketch

  • Just What Is an Elder?
  • Men of Experience
  • Men of Character
  • Men of Vision

Section Two: Authority

  • The Biblical Language of “Authority”
  • The Authority of Moral Suasion

About the Author

Lynn Anderson has been in the ministry for over thirty-five years and currently serves as president of Hope Network, a ministry dedicated to coaching, mentoring, and equipping spiritual leaders for the twenty-first century. He received his doctorate from Abilene Christian University in 1990.

Anderson’s lifelong career of ministry has involved speaking nationwide to thousands of audiences and authoring eight books — including The Shepherd’s Song; Navigating the Winds of Change; Heaven Came Down; They Smell like Sheep, Volume 1; and If I Really Believe, Why Do I Have These Doubts?

He and his wife, Carolyn, live in San Antonio. They are the parents of four grown children and the grandparents of eight wonderful grandchildren.

***For additional information on this resource, including reviews, click the bookstore links. Check the reference at page top or the links below for resource guides on related topics.***

Other Ministry Resource Guides:

See Resources on Over 100 Areas of Ministry Leadership: