The Flock

by Dan Barnes on December 28, 2012 · 10 comments

A shepherd was put in charge of an average size flock of sheep, and he took too his task with joy and enthusiasm.  The shepherd was responsible, diligently and worked hard. He kept watch over his flock and rejoiced as the flock continued to increase. From a distance things looked great but there was a problem. The shepherd was extremely near sited and didn’t see what was really going on.

In the flock, there was a number of wolves disguised as sheep. They would take sheep, but as the sheep disappeared, wolves took their place. The growth in the flock was not sheep, but the enemy coming in.  The growth came as the wolves became fat and their pups grew and became fat. The shepherd saw the wolves getting fat, thinking they were wise and maturing sheep would bring young lambs to them, thinking they would be taught. The lambs were devoured by wolf pups, and the shepherd was pleased, not knowing the dear lambs were replaced by wolves.

As time continued, the sound from the flock changed from baa to growls and howls.  The shepherd had never heard these sounds come from the sheep, thinking they had found a better way to communicate, he began to incorporate the sounds into his calls. He was delighted to see how this helped his flock to grow.

This continued over the years until one day the owner of the sheep came to visit his flock. The shepherd was overjoyed to show the owner how his flock had grown.  When the owner saw what was once his flock become a pack, he was grieved deeply. Where there was once sheep, rams and ewes and lambs, now there were wolves, coyotes, and foxes. They were fat from the flesh of the flock, and the shepherd called them with howls and growls.  The owner looked at the shepherd heart broken.

“You have eyes but you did not see. You have ears but you did not hear. You were charged with the care of the flock, but focused on your success and achievement. You did not even recognise the enemy when he came, and now the wolf is all that is left.”

The shepherd hung his head in shame as the owner turned to go. There was nothing left to be done, there were no sheep left to tend. Only well fed predators who were overjoyed with the work of the shepherd. 

1 Don Brackbill December 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Been there done that.

Often, shepherds recognize the wolves when they start to assert themselves and take them on. Then we have protected sheep and an attacked shepherd.

It is no wonder so many of our pastors are beat up, battered, bruised, alone and wounded. I know. I’ve been there.

That’s when the owner shows up and binds up the wounds of the shepherd so that he can continue the great task of caring for the sheep and driving out the wolves!

Thanks Dan!

2 Christiane December 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm

DON, what sorts of things happened to you? (maybe you don’t want to discuss this, and I would understand that, but if you want to share, it may give heads up to some young pastors just employed.)

3 cb scott December 28, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Don Brackbill,

I understand what you are stating and it is true, but are you sure you have read the entire content of the post?

This post, seems to me, presents a growing problem with shepherds and wolves far more than with the sheep.

4 Dan Barnes December 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm

CB, I think Don is taking a step back, commenting on the rise of wolves in the entire population, which increases hostility on other shepherds trying to defend the flock.

5 cb scott December 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Dan Barnes,

OK. I get that and I can certainly agree with him. I think 2 Timothy and especially Chapter 3 of 2 Timothy will give credibility to one’s stating there is a “rise of wolves in the entire population” and this is becoming greatly evident in the Church as a whole.

Dan Barnes, the basic reason I made the comment that I did to Don Brackbill is because this post is, in my opinion, head and shoulders of most that I have read relating to the call to pastoral ministry and the seriousness of the task. I was kinda guarding the focus.

Don Brackbill, I meant no disrespect.

I realize that no one on this blog pirates posts as often or as entirely as do I. So forgive my hypocrisy if you will, but this is a post that should be read three or four times by those who take their calling seriously.

Thank you for writing it, Dan Barnes.

6 Dan Barnes December 28, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I am sure Don takes no offense. Don and I served together, so I felt emboldened to speak on his behalf, and as always I appreciate your thoughts CB.

7 Jim Pemberton December 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm

This is why we have books like 1 John (see 4:1). We need to have discernment and the Bible is long on teaching it. We have the spiritual weakness in our church culture of pleading ignorance. Some of the reasons why:

1) Church leadership is already fraught with wolves and
a) a pastor must answer to them.
b) they are sometimes the wealthiest members.
2) Some pastors ignore the signs because they are still wrestling with sin in their own lives that they are too willing to self-justify.
3) Growth is more appealing than truth.
4) Appeasement is more appealing than appearing to the real sheep to be “killing off” what appear to be other sheep (especially when they appear to be respectable leaders in the church).

The list could go on and it’s most often an uphill battle.

8 Jess Alford December 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Jim Pemberton,

Sir, that is wisdom, it’s the kind that one don’t hear much about anymore.

9 Jess Alford December 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Dan Barnes,

Sir, your post is a masterpiece of greatness. The Shepherds need to be more aware of what is going on, and not be spiritually near sighted.
A wolf has to be recognised and dealt with.

10 Kay Copas December 28, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Ahhhhhhh. Good points. Yet they seem incomplete to me because it puts all the responsibility on the shepherd. The problem is much deeper. It’s not only the call to achieve which prevents an uncompromised Word (don’t want to anger the owners), unrealistic expectations that the shepherd’s job is to do it all, or an attempt to intellectualize and/or symbolize the Word from the pulpit (lukewarm, tired, or just plain beat up pastors) but it is also a lack of accountabilty with the sheep themselves.

At some point the lambs have to be weaned from dependency on the shepherd and the milk and begin to realize that we are all called to the little ones in the flock. Ministry isn’t totally dependent upon the shepherd. The real problem is that we have forgotten our first love and the flock has assimilated well into Babylon. In ancient days when the lambs would stray, the shepherd would break their legs and carry them until they learned to stay with the flock. Today, we want to be everyone’s warm and fuzzy and avoid the cost of hard truths.

We all want to provide summaries of the problems (I’m preaching to me too) and our own wisdom to fix what’s wrong (generally very prideful because we all think we are the ones who are right) but how much time are we spending praying, weeping, fasting for the shepherds and the sheep? How much time are we spending in humility before the Great Shepherd in repentance and asking Him to show us our own sin?

What we need is to allow Jesus His rightful place as owner of the flock, to determine to walk according to His rod and His staff and trust that when the wolves leave for lack of interest, He will provide the food as well as the resting place and the quiet waters that the sheep need. We need to be on our face before the rightful owner asking for forgiveness.

To throw another tattered parable in here. You cannot tell the wheat from the tares until they reach maturity. It’s going to get a whole lot darker in the American Church – the good news is that as the genuine tares are revealed, the sweet and matured wheat is too! It is in the darkness that the light of Christ shines the brightest.

What we need is Jesus and a plain old fashioned shaking up of some really lazy and foolish shepherds and sheep. Can you hear the footsteps of Messiah in the background? Should any of what isn’t happening in the church today really surprise us?

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