A shepherd in China was in a tight spot when his old sheep dog died. He couldn’t afford to buy and feed another dog.
How was he going to care for his flock?
After a visit to a local wildlife park the shepherd got creative. He noticed on his park tour that a flock of rare sheep was controlled by the use of wolf posters. The sheep stayed clear of the large wolf photos, refusing to go anywhere near them. So the park rangers were controlling the movement and behavior of the flock by the strategic placement of these wolf posters.
The shepherd went home, created some wolf posters, and tried them out on his flock. Just as he hoped, the posters did the trick. He could drive the flock, steer the flock, and control the flock by waving the poster of the wolf.
The image of sheep and flocks is often used in scripture to describe God’s people. The image of a shepherd is used to describe God (“The Lord is my shepherd”), Jesus (“the good shepherd”), and Holy Spirit appointed church leaders (“Keep watch over the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers”).
Shepherding a flock, while rewarding, is a demanding work. Effectively shepherding a flock involves feeding, protecting, and leading the sheep. It means scouting out new pastures, watching out for predators, and taking care of wounded or sick sheep. It means being on the move at a rate that allows the flock to get to fresh pasture without leaving behind the young or the old.
Sometimes church shepherds look for a quick fix to the needs of the flock. It is much easier to intimidate the flock with fake wolves than it is to get to know them. It is much easier to control their movement than provide nourishing food. It is much easier to scare them with posters of wolves than to engage the real wolves. Have you ever been in a church where leaders “led” by intimidation? Where leaders were constantly crying “Wolf!”? Where leaders were aloof?
I am thankful for those who shepherd the flock at Skyline who are trying to lead us by being out in front of the flock to show us the direction to go. Recently Alan DeJarnatt presented a special message to the flock at Skyline. There were no fake wolves. There was no intimidation. There was the voice of a shepherd (on behalf of all our shepherds) lovingly calling us to follow. Alan’s message left us with much to consider about our involvement and commitment to God and God’s people.
- Am I making it a priority to be with my church family for worship and spiritual formation opportunities?
- Am I opening my life to interaction with others in deepening spiritual friendships?
- Am I being a member of the body of Christ by sharing Jesus and serving others in the name of Jesus?
- Am I being a generous giver to support the kingdom work of our church family?
It would be so much easier for our shepherds to just carry around some wolf posters. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to keep the flock in line with intimidation and bullying. But I am thankful to God our shepherds have committed themselves to the messy work of getting involved in the lives of the flock. And I am thankful for their leading us with loving words to us and loving prayers for us.