|Sheep Tracks Archives|
Each Dog Doing His Own Thing
It was chaotic; it seldom occurs, but it was one of those times when the sheep became scattered after I entered the field with our three sheep dogs, Queenie, Dottie, and King. Normally the sheep flow together, the dogs work together and we proceed with the plans I have for the sheep. But for some unexplained reason the sheep began to scatter and my attempts to have them brought together as one unit by giving commands to the dogs failed. In fact, it just made matters worse.
At that point I settled down a bit, looked around at the situation and I began to see some interesting parallels in the church. One shepherd, three sheep dogs, and more than three hundred sheep in the pasture that day seemed to represent much of what we see in the body of Christ today.
I saw about 40 to 50 sheep in one corner of the field with Queenie intently keeping watch that they did not leave that corner. A few hundred feet away Dottie had sheep held in another corner with her eyes fixed on them. Each of those two dogs had her back to me. King was near the center of the field appearing to be about as confused as the sheep, the remainder of which were scattered over the field. The primary analogy I saw between that situation and Christians is that each dog was doing their own thing, no matter what my commands were.
I noticed that Queenie and Dottie were doing an excellent job at keeping their respective groups held in corners of the field. Queenie was nearest to me and I noticed that she had a determination that was so intense that should some poor sheep try to escape that corner the dog would surely tear a leg off such a dumb animal. What made matters worse was that she also had her back to me which eliminated the possibility of seeing any hand signals I might want to to give.
On occasion I have one or more dogs hold sheep in a corner of a field. Usually it's a time when I wish to be among the sheep to catch one of them for close observation. A dog's ability to hold the sheep in the corner is of immense value at times such as that. However a dog that does an excellent job at a task is of no value to me as a shepherd unless that is what I want done at that time. If I wish to move 300 sheep out of a field then one dog's demonstration of his superb ability to hold sheep in a corner may impress someone, but not me at that moment.
How many of us are on this earth doing a good job at the task before us, but in reality are but like sheep dogs guarding our group just daring one to move the wrong direction? How often do we exhibit the zeal of a Border Collie sheep dog, and how often do we in our pride filled hearts think what a great job we are doing for God? How often do we do these things with such diligence and over such a long period of time that we fail to realize that we have positioned ourselves where we never lose sight of the sheep in front of us but we now have the Good Shepherd to our back?
Individuals do it, congregations do it, denominations do it, educational institutions do it. All of us, at times do an excellent job in man's eyes, but the question is, "Who , or what spirit is directing the activity?" Is it the Holy Spirit? Is it a deceiving spirit? Why have so many colleges and universities that were started by the church no longer functioning as Christian institutions? We can make all manner of excuses about money, changes in society, etc. but the question still remains, "was God giving the commands when changes were being made?"
We can do things to please ourselves, to please others, and to please God. The Bible has many scriptures that say we are to please God. The apostle Paul asked some pertinent questions. "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal. 1:10, NIV) Our problems often arise when we fail to distinguish between pleasing God and pleasing man. We think we are pleasing God and pleasing man. We think we are doing something to please God when in fact we have done little more than occupy a corner of the pasture. The Bible says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,..(Php 2:3, NIV). No doubt some men take their God given abilities and add to that some training. Then perhaps a vision comes to win the lost. But some men get caught up in the frenzy as my dogs did and loose sight and sound of the Shepherd. God's vision has changed to man's vision; selfish ambition!. Does Is. 56:11 fit here? "They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough; They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain."
Many of us select a church to attend out of selfish ambition....we want to hear a preacher who says from the pulpit what our itching hears want to hear. Sure, we want to hear something from the Bible, but we prefer it only be from selected verses of the Bible. We wish to be edified. We want to leave the church building feeling good. Most of us don't care for the "hard sayings.". I find it interesting that Paul, in his second letter to Timothy said that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training for righteousness...." (3:16 NIV). Rebuking and correcting we don't like, but note that represents two of four things mentioned. Furthermore Paul wrote, "Preach the Word; correct, rebuke and encourage. (4:2, NIV). Correct and rebuke is two out of three.
Our selfish desires have lead to the proliferation of a lot of "corners in the pasture", if you will. Shepherds of the day have obliged us by giving us what we want, which explains why we hear of terms such as social gospel, soft gospel, cosmetic gospel, partial gospel, and prosperity gospel. I was in a Sunday school class once where one prominent man in the church told the class he didn't want to come to Sunday school if the teacher used the Bible to teach. On the other extreme we find some people spend a lot to time going to church meetings, listening to cassette tapes, reading Christian books, reading and studying the Bible, but who seemingly never learn enough to start acting on it.
I am familiar with a few Christian schools near here and I have made it a point to ask leaders if they get much support from other churches to develop and maintain their school. I learned that others are reluctant to assist, particularly if represented by a different denomination. Are Christian schools important? Sure they are! Then why do churches not work together with the prayer and financial support needed in these schools? If these are questions on your mind may I suggest you check the pasture? I think churches often neglect Christian schools for the same reason they fail to work together on other things....they are in respective corners and each dog is doing his own thing.
King set an example that captured my heart. Remember I said he was in the middle of the field and seemed to be as confused as the sheep? There is good reason for that; he was trying desperately to keep an eye on me midst all the scattered sheep, the various commands and general confusion. Despite all the chaos he was still seeking my specific instructions. You see, King was doing his own thing toohe doesn't like to proceed without clear cut, specific instructions from his master. He didn't create the confusion, he just got caught in it. But he didn't arbitrarily begin cornering sheep either.
My undershepherds are gifted and they are trained. But two other characteristics are also very important. First they must be aware of my presence and my commands, and second and most important they must be obedient to those commands. My intent that day in the pasture was to have all the sheep move in the same direction with the undershepherds doing the work based upon my commands. Do you suppose this is parallel to what our Lord wants for us?
God has gifted you and me. You and I are to act according to His will and direction and not display our talents in a corner just because we know we can. You may have the God given ability to direct a crew to build a tower of Babel, but does that mean that is what you are to do? Of course not!
As we move toward the close of the twentieth century it is obvious that turmoil and confusion abound within as well as outside the body of Christ. Christians, especially those in positions of leadership, need to stand on the Word of God and always position themselves so they can see and hear the Master. King's willingness to stand in the middle of so much confusion that day in the pasture and still focus on my direction will no doubt serve a s a model for me to remember for a long time.