Jump Start # 2943
Acts 20:28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
One of the roles of God’s shepherds is to protect the people entrusted to them. Protection brings a sense of comfort and ease to our hearts. When a storm is ragging loudly in the night, a child may crawl in bed between his parents. The storm is still making noise, but the presence of the parents brings a comfort of love, security and safety. The child falls back to sleep.
As today’s shepherds look over the flock, there are so many different factors and areas that they need to consider to help the church remain safe, strong and moving forward with the Lord.
First, there are physical concerns. This is touchy, but I’m going to open this door. Through the pandemic shepherds had to make the tough call to do what they felt was best for their people. Some services were cancelled. Some didn’t understand why. Some have said some awful things of which they will have to answer to God about. Many things have been said on social media that should never have been there. The elders who made that call were only trying to keep their people safe. On other times, they may cancel services because of snow storms or hurricanes. It’s not politics that drives this, but the love of the people. Once, when we were in Kansas City, as our Wednesday night services were ending, a SWAT team was outside of building with guns drawn. They were looking for someone. The SWAT leader came into the building and asked if we could stay inside until the situation was clear. We did. It was a call to protect the people. Some congregations have hired security or policemen during services. It is to keep us safe.
Second, there are doctrinal concerns. There’s a lot of stuff floating around that just isn’t Biblical. When some start paying attention to those things and begin to get wiggly in their thinking, it’s time for shepherds to protect the flock. Some of the junk out there is put out by our brethren who either need to study more, post less, or else they have an agenda and that’s scary. There may come a time when specific names, podcasts, books are named as being poisonous, dangerous and unhealthy to our spiritual wellbeing. Some wouldn’t like that. But it’s the job of the shepherds to protect us. Sometimes sheep do not recognize good grass from dangerous weeds. As a parent, I had to send a neighborhood child home who was getting too mouthy and disrespectful. I did that to protect my children. We wouldn’t let them watch any show. We checked what books they were reading. All of this was to protect them.
Third, there are emotional concerns. This often comes from within. Discouraging attitudes, gossipy tongues, back biting, putting leaders down, trying to undermine the good others are doing, and even offensive and prejudicial comments should have no place among God’s people. I believe much too often we give each other a pass when that shouldn’t be done. We have a standard to live up to and we need to do that. We don’t help each other spiritually when we look the other way when things are said that should never be said. That’s wrong. Offending brethren is serious. It’s enough to make some stop coming. It can send visitors running away. And, we just put up with the ole’ brother because he’s old and that’s just the way he is. Well, that’s just not right in my book and it’s especially not right in God’s book. I don’t care how old he is, he needs to straighten up and hush up. Allowing inappropriate comments, whether said in a Bible class or in conversations hurts the church. We are disciples of Christ. We are not a “good ole’ boys club” where rude, crude and offensive things are laughed off. Shepherds need to protect the flock. Wounded feelings are hard to heal. The wounds seem to stay fresh when it appears that nothing is ever done.
We come from different backgrounds. We have different stories. We have different histories. We have different needs. We need to try to stand in the shoes of others. Something may seem awkward to me, but be totally out of bounds to someone else. What I think is no big deal, may be the very thing that shatters a fragile faith. A woman who grew up in a sexually abusive home may take real offensive and really be bothered by some things others say. Not thinking about that, hurts others. We must be mindful of others. Calling the denominations dumb only hurts those who have family members still in denominations. The sensitive training that major corporations have gone through probably has pushed the envelop too far, but a lack of sensitivity among us can undermine all the preaching and good that a congregation is trying to do. Not everyone grew up in this fellowship. Not everyone knows the ‘in house’ words we all understand. Be thoughtful. Be kind. Let your speech be seasoned with grace is what the apostles said. Coming across rough, abrasive and mean doesn’t fit in with the Gospel message.
And, shepherding includes having to deal with those kinds of things among us. We can be just like kids. You remember. Your sister said, “You’re ugly.” You replied, “You’re dumb.” Back and forth the insults went until one really touched a nerve and off to mom one of us went. We complained that the other called us a mean name. And our poor moms had to iron out the disputes and trouble that we caused. Our moms must have thought, ‘why can’t they just be nice and play together.’ And, I wonder if the shepherds think, ‘Why can’t they just be nice and worship together?’
Protecting—that’s not easy work. It means getting in the trenches. It’s hearing both sides of stories. It’s making the call that may not be popular. It’s driven by love. At the core, the shepherd wants the sheep to be safe. Safe: physically, doctrinally, spiritually and emotionally. Wolves, poison and danger can be found everywhere, even among us.
Bless our shepherds. Thank you, Lord for keeping us safe.