Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sheepish Excuses

Tim Challies had a colorful post the other day about sheep plunging off an embankment as their shepherds busied themselves with breakfast. The point was to consider how stupid sheep are and how easily they are herded to their doom – they are natural followers. More than that, look what sheep do when not properly shepherded!

I commented on challies.com, but thought I might pose a similar problem here. When do the sheep bear responsibility for their own misstep? In other words, isn’t there a time when the sheep ought to say to themselves, “Hey, everybody is plunging to their doom off that cliff up there. Maybe I should stop and go the other direction?”

I have met more than 11 people who kept grazing away in some silly church which they knew was rushing headlong to destruction. They gave reasons for staying, but I have yet to be very convinced by any of them...

1. My whole family goes there. It has been our church for generations.
Well, God doesn’t bless walls, He saves souls. If the church you are in is not preaching the gospel, then get your whole family out!

2. Things will fall apart if we leave there.
Well, I hate to tell you this, but things have already fallen apart if the Word is not preached and the Lord not delighted in! Besides it may shock you to find out that things will continue along on the same path without you. You are never as indispensable as you think. I suggest you quickly inform the leadership of your coming departure and get yourself to an authentic church.

3. We’ve been there so long!
Well, Lot’s wife lived in Sodom for a long time, too. Long enough to stop seeing what was wrong with that debauched city. Have you been there so long you cannot see how bad things really are?

4. We don’t like changing churches and starting all over again at relationships.
Well, neither do I. Neither do many people I know. But, in serious matters, serious steps need to be taken. Sometimes change is the only option.

5. We are so comfortable there.
Well, Peter and James and John were comfortable sleeping on the ground in Gethsemane. Just because you can nap on a rock doesn’t mean there isn’t something better for your spiritual posture. If the Word is not preached – go out and find it and there will be comforts for your soul you never imagined.

6. We like to go to church close to home.
Well, so do I – and hopefully there is a church close to your home that preaches the Word and delights in its Author... but if there isn’t, I think it is worth driving as far as you have to in order to be with God’s people and grow in His grace.

But do you know what would be better than all these options? If you stopped in your tracks, called out to all the other sheep around you and said, “Hey, we are dying down here! Let’s go talk to the shepherds!” Then you all meander over to the misguided shepherds and say, “Attention, Shepherds. We want the green pastures and still waters! Baaaa.”

If they get up from their distractions and take you there – you have won your shepherd (and you can stay in your church!) But if they refuse to listen, you kick the dust off your hooves (do sheep have hooves) and find yourself shepherds that are following the Chief Shepherd.

I am never for leaving churches if we can avoid it... but life is short, and if your church is committed to ways that oppose the Gospel and the glory of God, I say, get out and find a place where God is delighted in. Only, don’t come to my church – that would be sheep-stealing.