Are you fit to lead the flock?
Imagine you live in the first century and you’re a shepherd. You are leading your flock to the water when lo and behold, you notice a wolf is coming. Being the good shepherd, you approach the wolf and say,
“Greetings friend. Come and let us understand your desires with the flock. Let us sit down and share a meal together. You may come and freely interact with my flock and I will allow you to do so.”
You seem puzzled later on when you notice that you have less sheep than you did before.
Or, picture this scenario.
This time you see the wolf and come up to him and get your rod and begin to chase him away. The flock is safe and the wolf knows to not come by.
Which shepherd is truly the good shepherd?
Now let’s talk about another flock, the church. In the church, there are people of all levels. There are some who are seniors and have been in church all their lives. There are youth who are just now getting to make their faith their own. There are the middle-aged who grew up in the church or have just decided to come to church after becoming parents. With them being parents, there are new children in the church who need someone to look out for them as well until they make their faith their own.
Over them is a man that we call the pastor who is to be a shepherd to the flock.
Now while they’re in the building, they could be safe from various threats, but you, the pastor cannot be a babysitter and watch your flock every day and this is one way the people differ from a literal flock of sheep. However, you can equip them so that they can be prepared. Prepared for what?
Well that twelve year-old boy you have in your audience? He’s going to be on YouTube looking up a favorite Christian song he learned in your church one day and on the side under related videos, he’s going to see something from a group like the Rational Response Squad telling him about all the errors in the Bible and why there is no God. Is that boy prepared if he happens to click that link?
That fifteen year-old boy? Well he’s thinking about getting his driver’s license soon and is already thinking about his freedom. While he’s on his computer, he’s not looking up music. He’s looking for ways to impress his girlfriend when lo and behold, here comes this email inviting him to come to a site so he can “understand” women all the more. Why not? His best buds in school are already starting to talk about their sexual exploits.
See that sixteen year-old girl? Well she’s being given permission to date now and is looking forward to it, but her friends at school are telling her that she needs to sleep with a guy so she can really understand if he loves her or not and hey, don’t worry about pregnancy. As long as he uses a condom it’s okay and if worse comes to worse, you can just get an abortion. Oh it’s not a life. Science has established that. It’s only those bigoted Christians who think that.
How about those eighteen year-olds? They’re graduating and have the whole world ahead of them and are getting ready to go off to college. After a lifetime of Sunday School, they will be put face to face with 25 years of atheism in the form of a professor and all they have is just being told what Jesus has done for them, which the professor will nicely dismiss as a delusion that they grew up with. They need to learn some critical thinking and realize feeling something doesn’t make it so.
How about that middle-aged couple? Their marriage is in trouble right now because he’s considering having an affair. What’s the big deal? If it feels right, do it. He’s just following his heart after all.
That other couple over there? He’s about to be put in a position where he will have to do something unethical at work in order to keep his job. Now sure, it will damage his Christian testimony and his reputation for life, but he has nowhere else to go because the church also has not been a bastion of help for people but has rather chose to focus only on their emotional needs and preaching the same feel-good message for years.
There’s yet another couple. Right now, they’re a bit confused. You see, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been visiting them and they’ve been learning some things that their pastor hasn’t taught them. They’ve learned that the word Trinity isn’t in the Bible and that the Greek scholars really know that John 1:1 doesn’t mean what they think it means. They’ve been invited to the Kingdom Hall and these people are so nice and loving, how can they not be Christians? Besides, who are we to judge?
That elderly woman over there? Her husband just passed away and thankfully, you consoled her through the funeral service but now she’s been watching this guy on TV who’s a preacher and he’s promising her that she will be provided for if she makes a faith donation. Now the church has always supported faith and surely she thinks the pastor will. She just needs to take that social security check she’s going to live on and mail it to this preacher. Surely God will reward her. That’s faith after all. Right?
This is only a start of what is going on in your church at this moment.
And you might not know any of these stories are happening.
It is essential that you learn apologetics for these situations. Why should that boy believe there is a God? Why should he not engage in pornography? Why should a girl not sleep around? As we go through the list we see questions of truth, ethics, the nature of faith, etc. No doubt I’ve only given a small subsection of all the problems that could take place in a church. There are myriads more that can and do happen.
Do you have that rod ready?
Pastor. You need apologetics. Now please understand I am not saying you need to be a specialist, but if you are told about apologetics and you answer “What’s that?” then I firmly believe you have no business leading the flock as you are unprepared to defend them and you’re just setting them up to be eaten by wolves.
I realize you’re a busy guy. You have to do your Bible Study to prepare a sermon as well as your own study for your own edification. You have to have a prayer life. You have to be on call for if a member of your congregation has a 3 A.M. emergency where they call you and need you to visit them at the hospital. You have to attend meetings on all manner of subjects at the church. You have to do counseling. Never mind you also have to have time for your own family be it dating your wife, watching your son’s football games, or attending your daughter’s piano recitals.
You have a busy and important job. I understand that.
Here are just two things to do.
First, get some basics. Once you have those basics, such as starting with the books Lee Strobel has written interviewing leading Christian scholars, then at least get the places where people can go to. Give them resources online and offline they can check out for information. This is assuming you don’t make this a specialist area. If you do, God bless you. If not, that’s fine. Not everyone can do that and God bless you as well, but know the basics.
Second, if you really can’t specialize here, then make sure you know someone who does. I think it would be great if every congregation had an apologetics go-to guy. You need someone who knows the information or knows the very best place to get the information. We have ministers of music and youth ministers and such today. It will be a blessed day in the church when congregations also set up ministers of apologetics.
Now suppose you reject this advice. You just want to give them the Bible alone.
Well when they get their Bible attacked and all they have to retreat to is a feeling, we’ll have several Christians that if they keep their faith even, will be of no use because they will not speak out about it and will not act on it out of sheer fear of the world around them. They will form a bifurcation between their faith and the way they live their lives and never shall the two meet. You’ll pretty much simply have a mutual support group that will be able to do nothing to win people over to Jesus Christ.
And when your congregation eventually dies from old age, that church will die with it.
This is a new age where people need more than “The Bible Says So” and “I feel Jesus in my heart.” If we were going to go on a mission to a foreign country, we would seek to learn the language and the culture of that country. Why is it that when we evangelize our neighbor who thinks differently than we do, we don’t seek to understand his language and culture? You need to know how to evangelize the man in China if you wish to speak to him. You need to know how to evangelize your next-door neighbor if you wish to speak to him and both can involve entering another culture.
Now if your opinion is along the lines of “Well I never” then you need to get rid of that pride. Having a strong feeling that you should preach is not reason enough that you should preach. If you think it is, then you’re in for a world of hurt when the Mormons visit your flock and they develop a strong feeling that the Book of Mormon is true. Be willing to humble yourself and learn about the defense of your flock. Their very souls could be on the line and you will be judged one day for how you lead them. You can complain here, but before God, there are no excuses.
Be prepared for the wolves, and then prepare your flock.
Originally published on Deeper Waters.