Much has been said lately in defense of the sheep, and more than likely it is well deserved. There are horror stories from all over the country about men in positions of authority who have become “lords over God’s heritage” and who have taken advantage of the flock over which they have been made overseer. Such atrocities ought to be repudiated with a vengeance. There is no place in the kingdom of God for tyrants and despots. Such behavior is an insult to the very concept of a shepherd. As one elder statesman observed—THERE ARE SOME MEN I WOULDN’T PUT OVER MY DOGS, MUCH LESS MY SHEEP. It is apparent to us at least that God never intended for His Church to be a concentration camp run by a bunch of egocentric fascists.
But for the sake of balance, we should also hear the other side of the story. For, at the risk of offending all the honorable and honest defense lawyers in our fair nation—NOBODY CAN DEFEND A CROOK LIKE A CROOK! What is frightening about this whole affair is that there are those who are wrong on both sides of the issue that are accusing others of being abusive, and from a distance it is sometimes hard to discern the truth of the matter. If there ever was a time when we need men of discernment and integrity, it is today. And while it is infinitely outrageous that a preacher or a pastor would ever abuse the saints of God and for selfish, greedy purposes slaughter innocent sheep and tender lambs, it is at least as bad if not worse when carnal, ungodly church-members rise up against a godly, holy shepherd and bring railing accusations against him, ultimately seeking to destroy his ministry because he dared to stand up against them for what is right.
A pastor has perhaps one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. He is expected to love everybody, treat everyone fairly, and never be offended by anything anyone would say or do. And he is expected to mysteriously produce and maintain an aura of respectability in a church. He must visit and pray for the sick, be attentive to the concerns and complaints of each member of the church, bless babies, marry young couples, and bury the dead. All of this he must do while seeking to know the mind of Christ for the church as a whole, and for each individual as well. And he must teach doctrine and preach the gospel.
And for the most part, he is well rewarded for his labor. By and large, Apostolics are very faithful in giving honor to whom honor is due, and even giving double honor from time to time.
But there is a blight that will sometimes settle in on a congregation, a blight that if it is not removed in time will choke the very life out of the local assembly and often jeopardizes the health and sanity of the shepherd. When a member or a family in a congregation succumbs to carnality, there is no telling how far they will go in trying to destroy the Man of God in the church. Some people have traveled far and wide spreading vicious rumors about the pastor and his family—all because he refused to overlook their carnal ways and childish actions.
When a member or a family in a congregation succumbs to carnality, there is no telling how far they will go in trying to destroy the Man of God in the church.
Isn’t it about time that we hold renegade saints responsible for what they say about their former pastor? What about the scripture that says we are not to receive an accusation against an elder unless we have two or three witnesses? There are men who have listened to sob stories and sad tales of woe from disgruntled “goats” and were completely taken in by nothing but a pack of lies and false accusations. As a result, friendships have been destroyed, fellowship lost, and irreparable harm and damage done to the reputations of honest, God-fearing men.
It’s funny how different things look when you stand in a different location. When King David heard the story about the affluent man who had many sheep taking the one little sheep from the man who only had one sheep, he was enraged, and demanded swift retribution. How drastic was his change in perspective when he heard the prophet’s pronouncement: THOU ART THE MAN! How many pastors have denounced people who have left their congregation and gone to another fold, only to open wide their arms to people who have done the same thing to a fellow pastor? What a difference filthy lucre makes! How can we expect God to bless us when we harbor such dastardly deeds in our midst?
Brethren, the stability of our structure of locally sovereign churches is severely undermined if we do not put a halt to this business of church-hopping. How can we allow folks to simply pull up anchor and float across the bay to another lighthouse without jeopardizing our whole infrastructure? If the members of a local congregation think that they are free to simply run across the town, the county, the state or the country every time they disagree with what the pastor says, then the authority of our pulpits has been effectively diffused to the point where it is virtually nil.
No man can effectively pastor somebody who has close connections with another preacher who has “clout.” Who wants to have to worry about whether or not this or that member of his congregation is going to go running to Brother So-and-so and complain about what was preached tonight? This is folly beyond degree or measure!!! The members of any given congregation are in serious trouble with God when they consistently rise up against the man that God has placed over them. And any other preachers or pastors who side with rebellious, preacher-hating church-members are in just as much trouble with God.
Our saints should sense a solidarity among the ministry in this hour like never before. However, in many places quite the opposite is true. How can we expect to have a reasonable amount of authority in our congregations when unscrupulous preachers sneak into town to visit, counsel and steal the hearts of our church-members? It doesn’t matter if you steal a sheep or a goat, you’re still a thief, sir! We need to quit quibbling over semantics and realize that while we are fussing over trivial things the enemy is in the process of dismantling the honor and integrity of our office. For while we may indeed be the better off without the ones that can be stolen, it is a reproach and a disgrace to have to bear the company of thieves.
It doesn’t matter if you steal a sheep or a goat,
you’re still a thief, sir!
It is high time that we begin to defend the office of the shepherd against the invasion of the wolves who are wearing sheep’s clothing. Pastor, you of all people should be very concerned when a member of another church comes to you bearing an accusation against another pastor. YOU, SIR, ARE NOT WORTHY TO BE CALLED A SHEPHERD IF YOU DO NOT DEFEND THE POSITION OF THE SHEPHERD. And do not blame the poor saints for being confused if their former pastor, in direct contradiction and diametric opposition to everything he ever taught them, tries to keep pastoring them via “remote-control!”
YOU, SIR, ARE NOT WORTHY TO BE CALLED A SHEPHERD IF YOU DO NOT DEFEND THE POSITION OF THE SHEPHERD.
May God grant us the boldness and strength of character that we need for these times, that we may face the challenges of our day with honor and integrity. No honorable pastor among us should live in fear that if he faithfully preaches and teaches the unadorned Word of God without fear or favor, the disgruntled members in his congregation will be welcome in another of our churches. We should be alarmed when a man pulls away from the fellowship of other brethren of like precious faith. Too many times this is just an opening for later accepting rebels who have left another man’s congregation.
Hopefully this message will be a warning to anyone that is contemplating rising up against their pastor, with the anticipation that they will be able to find pasture with another flock. Saint of God, get behind your pastor. Hold up his hands. Do not ever give him reason to doubt your loyalty. Be the best sheep a shepherd could ask for. Never wander or stray from following closely behind your shepherd. Do not question his judgment nor rise up against his authority. Let God lead you through him. Be faithful in your attendance to church, in your tithing and offerings, in your prayer and worship, and in whatever office you may be called upon to fill. Be at church on time. Be earnest about living for God. And above all things, pray for your shepherd, for he is your lifeline to safety and refuge.
Brethren, if we truly wish to defend the sheep, let us first of all earnestly and wholeheartedly defend the shepherd!
Rev. Tim D. Cormier
[written April 30, 2001]