Schafe können sicher weiden
J. S. Bach
(Second in a series.)
It must be said repeatedly that the souls of the Church need to be protected from predators and thieves. Teaching on His Own character as The Good Shepherd, our Lord took this for granted in pointing out that, when predators attack the sheep, the hireling flees whereas the good shepherd protects them. Thus His summary statement that the Good Shepherd gives up His life for the sheep.
It’s long overdue for God’s people to return to choosing pastors on the basis of this distinction our Lord Himself taught us. This is a deep distinction of eternal consequence and it bears no resemblance to the distinctions of terminal degrees and UK accents our present pulpit committees hanker after which disregard our Lord’s plain warnings.
Going past the acute danger of wolves though, the safe grazing of sheep also necessitates constant care on the part of their shepherd to lead and keep their charges feeding in green pastures, drinking from still waters. There is never a day when the shepherd doesn’t have to be watching over what his sheep eat lest they stray and start nibbling poisonous weeds and drinking polluted waters.
The good shepherd is jealous over what and how his sheep eat and drink. The sheep may think it’s none of their shepherd’s business, but he knows otherwise. He remembers he will answer to the Chief Shepherd soon, and if he’s chosen a life of ease over vigilant watchcare concerning his sheep’s eating and drinking habits, he will answer to His Master for their sickness and death.
We undershepherds live with the temptation to think our Lord won’t return anytime soon, so there’s no danger taking a little time to eat, drink, play, and sleep. It’s foolish and cruel to give in to such temptations.
Such temptation’s are strengthened by our knowledge of the reaction we can expect from our sheep when we warn them or use our staff to yank their leg out from under them as they plunge downhill toward the ravine. Warning and obstructing the paths of wayward sheep have always been difficult.
Today, it’s more difficult knowing this thankless work is in danger of getting us written up on women’s gossip blogs as an abuser of sheep.
The Church has her own cancel culture and pastors can fear it more than we fear our Master. We know how often discipline is resented. We know how often faithfully restating God’s “no” will stain us with a bad reputation in neighboring sheepfolds (even if it doesn’t do so within our own flock).
Add to gossip sites the fact that the internet is all about the latest news, and we have a perfect storm. The internet is our modern-day Athens Luke described in Acts:
(Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something newer.) -Acts 17:21
To be sure, the internet is a useful tool for feeding our sheep. In fact, our ability to bypass the gatekeepers who own parachurch organizations and publishing houses has been a wonderful gift to faithful shepherds. We now have a direct path to men of goodwill quite similar to the pamphleteering the printing press made possible for the Reformers five centuries ago. The internet is another democratization of mass communication we thank God for.
But McLuhan was wise to point out “the medium is the message,”1. Yes, the medium of the internet is a very mixed blessing. It levels the playing field for faithful shepherds seeking to teach the harassed and helpless sheep without shepherds, but it also humiliates the Word of God, mocking and shaming God’s truths and those who defend them at the many gaps in the wall.
For this reason, a number of godly shepherds refuse to be active on any social media, stating that these mediums are utterly corrosive to all things holy and true. Others respond that most of our sheep are on the social media site of their choice in droves, so we do what we can to bring them to our pages where they may safely graze. The debate is unresolved…
Pornography may not be the worst of the evils the internet has rained down on us. In the economy of truth, it’s at least arguable that the most toxic fruit found online is not images, but words. Lies are the internet’s stock-in-trade and our sheep feed on them constantly. We get their ears an hour and a half every Lord’s Day and it feels hopeless when we stop to consider all the poisonous weeds and polluted waters our sheep have been feeding on day and night the other 166 hours a week.
So we add home fellowship groups, Sunday evening worship, and weekly discipleship groups that meet early in the morning or during a weekly family night. Yet this does little to abate our sheep’s feeding on weeds and pollution 150 hours a week.
So we start a classical Christian school for our children which leaves evenings, nights, mornings, lunch hours, and weekends for our children to sneak a peek at poison and pollution. Meanwhile keep in mind that Dad and Mom aren’t under the supervision and instruction of their children’s Biblically informed and conscientious classical Christian educators.
If the teachers protect the children, who protects the teachers themselves? Maybe the school is good and principals and board members protect the teachers, but who then protects the principals and board members?
When the children go home each day and weekend, they’re protected by their father and mother, but who protects the fathers and mothers? Do we assume anyone committed to classical Christian education needs no protection?
If we’re honest, we’ll admit it’s our latent thought pattern that the adults of the church need no protection. Just children. Isn’t the book of Proverbs Scripture’s testimony to the vulnerability of youth and their need of careful discipline and instruction? Pertaining to adults, doesn’t Proverbs contain this promise: “Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6)?
- As men say, the apple never falls far from the stem.
- Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.
- The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
- The child is father of the man.
If we acknowledge the truth of these statements, does this require us to believe the man who has fallen from a good tree and been nurtured in the fear and admonition of the Lord is now, as he raises his sons and daughters, out of any danger choosing his own food and drink? His own pasture? Is straying over into poisonous weeds and polluted waters unique to children and adolescents? Are fathers and mothers immune to such dangers?
The thesis of this series is that today’s men and women, fathers and mothers, need shepherds every bit as much as the fathers and mothers gathered around our Lord when He pitied them for their lack of shepherds and addressed their helplessness by teaching them.
The forgotten truth today is that the Reformation was a revival of love for all the sheep Rome had left without shepherds. Instead, Rome enticed them to feed on the poison and pollution perfectly represented by Rome’s preacher, Tetzel. He promised them salvation for their loved ones mediated by the payment of certain sums by which they could avail themselves of what Rome claimed to be their own “treasury of merit.”
Tetzel was the perfect image of Rome’s false shepherds as he sold Rome’s indulgences, the profit all designated for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica and Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel.
It’s always about money, isn’t it?
Let us claim our Heavenly Father’s promise:
I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in fat pasture on the mountains of Israel. -Ezekiel 34:14
(Second in a series.)
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Here’s more information about New Geneva Academy’s pastoral training curriculum and the men now in ministry who have been trained by New Geneva.
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