Highlighting ‘shepherd’ leadership: Former local pastor publishes book on Jesus’ sacrificial way with others

In a world of selfies, former pastor Dan Houze is encouraging selflessness.

In a world in which corporate heads and ministers sometimes lead by force, Houze is encouraging sacrifice.

He says openly that it’s hardly his idea. He says it’s Jesus’ idea.

Such is part of his focus in his recently released book, “The Path of the Shepherd: How to Lead Like Jesus” — a spin-off of the 66-year-old minister’s side work through 30-plus years training leaders from the corporate, nonprofit and ministry world.

Houze is best known in Columbus for helping launch Terrace Lake Church, one of the area’s fastest growing assemblies, and leading it for 20 years before retiring from the pastorate a year ago and moving with wife Kim to Abilene, Texas, where he attended high school and college.

“I’m a child of the ’60s,” Houze said, speaking by phone from his home. “I really was a part of the ‘me generation.’

“And it’s still a part of my sons’ generation. I am struck by some guy I can see sitting at a stoplight taking a picture of himself so he can post it on social media and then see how many people will like it.

“And his identity can be shaped by how many likes he gets.”

Houze’s work is now with his organization called 12:8 Leadership Ministries, based on Romans 12:8 that references the importance of “leading with zeal.”

“The ministry desires to see gifted leaders grow into shepherd leaders,” he said. “I think we all have seen too many gifted leaders implode over the years, whether that’s in the corporate world, the nonprofit world or church.

“A lot of this has had to do with the fact that their lack character of has outstripped their giftedness. We want to help people address those issues. And even if they have been leading (like that) for 20 years, we want to help them find a way to finish well.”

House’s definition from his book is clear: A shepherd leader is one who lovingly feeds the sheep by serving them after the pattern of the New Testament.

And it originates with Scripture from Jesus’ words in John 15:10: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

And the author also makes it clear that every person is called to lead in some way — the business person, the parent, and even the student. Houze surmises, first and foremost, that a leader’s character and identity must be rooted in what he terms “living in the the steadfast love of the Lord.

“If your identity is solid in that idea, then everything can then move from that point for you. And if your identity is wrong, then too often, you are going to be driven and probably trying to prove something (to get others’ love).”

Houze quotes corporate guru Warren Bennis as saying that leadership “is about expressing yourself, not proving yourself.”

The minister acknowledged battling insecurities “and being driven to prove myself” in part of his past.

“I realize that a lot of leaders feel so much pressure to success,” Houze said. “ And sometimes, a lot of that may come from their childhood or even from expectations others are putting upon them.”

The author credits others with helping him refocus.

“I’m grateful for the people that God put in my life to remind me that God’s steadfast love has to be the main thing,” he said.

Columbus resident Mark Foster, a member of Houze’s 12:8 Leadership Ministries board, watched Houze minister while he was here, and saw firsthand his ability to connect with people.

“More than anyone I’ve ever worked with, he has discernment with people, being able to quickly discover strengths and weaknesses,” Foster said. “My whole point in being involved with his ministry is that even though he’s at an age where many retire and take it easy, his gifts are desperately needed in today’s world.”

About the author

Name: Dan Houze

Age: 66

Wife: Kim

Lives: in Abilene, Texas

Currently: Founder and head of 12:8 Leadership Ministries equipping and training leaders in the corporate, nonprofit and church worlds. It can be reached at [email protected]

Most recently was: Helped found and then pastored Terrace Lake Church in Columbus

Background locally: Included writing as a columnist in The Republic’s Faith & Community section.