It seems like many of us enjoy the blessings that come from a good church body but chafe at the thought of being under the leadership and discipline of the church leaders.
So we have churches full of regular attendees instead of actual members and those who have been members but leave for greener pastures and yet continue to partake of all the good things the church is doing. Or members go along until they disagree with a session decision or some other issue rankles them and they head off into the vast and unprotected wilderness.
A great immaturity is at work here. We want the blessings of all the good work and the benefits of the discipleship and teaching and preaching and prayers in the lives of the flock, but don’t want the authority that naturally comes with this. And if we only submit to an authority when we are in agreement agree with said authority, we really aren’t being submissive.
If the Church were more loving and willing to look like the bad guys, they’d put a stop to this. Because the shepherds are in place for a reason.
To the elders at Ephesus, Paul warns, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to 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. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:28-30).
Because it’s part of our sinful nature to want to be our own god, the Church needs to assume its role as the shepherd and nip this immaturity in the bud. Unfortunately, if our church is being obedient in these matters, they will come across as tyrannical or, to use a pejorative these days, patriarchal.
Sheep don’t have shepherds over them because they are so smart and capable but because they are so completely stupid that to be left to their own devices, they’d wander off a cliff or into a pack of wolves. The shepherd is given a big stick to whack and guide the stupid sheep in an effort to save their lives. But, of course, the sheep, being so stupid, don’t know who their real friends are. They look to the wolves who open the pen door and let them run “free.”
And we don’t rid ourselves of all Church authority when one does a poor job any more than we decide the world doesn’t need mothers and fathers just because a few stink at it. That’s just another excuse we use to avoid that which is intended to protect us.
Consider J. A former friend, a completely normal guy, a life-long Christian, a family man, a seminary graduate in fact. This sheep wandered off; he started dabbling in Eastern Orthodoxy. His elders warned him that the church he was flirting with didn’t preach the gospel and he could not transfer there. He rebelled and left.
He’s now divorced, has a criminal record for molestation and is now “preaching” A Course in Miracles, some new age pseudo-religion which states that everything involving time, space, and perception is illusory.
He walked among us. He was safe in the paddock with the rest of the sheep and then he evaded his shepherds and wandered off. Now his life is in turmoil, destruction has followed him day and night.
We’re foolish to resist the work of the shepherds that God has placed over us either through ignoring their God-ordained work in our lives or evading their authority all together.