** This blog was originally written in May of 2011 … hope it still is of some value to some!
Over the last year of Re:Train at Mars Hill the theme of shepherd, sheep and wolves in the context of the church has come up a fair bit. I have been pondering this teaching and the discussions that I have found myself in and I am wondering if this is something that we missed a Bible College!
The concept that pastors are functioning as shepherds is not a strange or foreign concept to me. Tim Laniak’s book “While shepherds watch their flocks” is a fantastic book that outlines the roles of shepherds. I reviewed the book awhile back on here, check it out here. Laniak shows how the job of shepherding has not really changed in some parts of the world for 100’s of years. The idea of caring for, leading, guiding and generally tending the flock is a role that every pastor identifies with and to a degree understands. The reality is though, if you have sheep, predators will enter the picture at some time. The Biblical image for that is of the wolf.
Martin Luther is on record as having said; “With wolves you can not be too severe. With the weak sheep you can not be to gentle.” This is a great statement, but it really does not help us to identify, or teach us how to deal with wolves in the church! The Apostle Paul in Acts 20:29-31 tells us that after he leaves that wolves (fierce ones at that!) will enter the church, they will twist the teaching and lead the sheep astray. We are told to be alert … and Paul cared about this teaching so much that verse 31 tells us that he taught this for THREE years, all the while with tears. This was a huge deal to Paul, something that he wanted all leaders of the church to know!
So the question is how do we identify a wolf? Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle uses these markers to help identify the wolves among us.
1. Wolves have savage appetites. They love gossip, dissension, hurt and misfortune are their delight! They use all of these to cause the sheep to doubt God.
2. Wolves travel in packs. They will work the crowd, stirring up dissension. Once they have the crowd, or at least some of it, then they will challenge the leadership for control.
3. Wolves hide in plain sight. They sit back and watch what is going on. At the same time they are too busy to actually serve in the church. They watch on the wings, gathering all the secrets they can, as knowing those secrets give them power.
4. Wolves want to be the leader. Every wolf is waiting for their chance to challenge for leadership, or to at least move up the leadership ladder so they can have more power!
The reality is that every church has a few wolves hanging around. What can we do about it? First the elders need to be the shepherds of the flock. As they see the wolves, they need to be freed to deal with wolves with they authority of one leading the flock! They need to protect the flock, the vision of the church and those who are on mission in the church.
Individually we need to be in the Word of God. We need to be on our knees and focus on God. We are told in Matthew 16:18 that His church will prevail against the gates of hell, what chance does a wolf have if the church is fixated on Jesus Christ, and protected by Holy Spirit empowered leaders!