WHEN SHEEP BARK, part 1

Anyone who has spent time in the Christian blog world is bound to have come across the peculiarly "Christian" blog genus in which a disenchanted former beneficiary of a ministry seeks to set that ministry straight by exposing its minister's sins--all, ostensibly, under the guidance of Christian love.

Such men labor under the conviction that they, though sheep, are meant to shepherd. Or, more accurately, that they, though sheep, are appointed to sheep-dog their (usually) former shepherd into righteousness by snarling at him from the fringes of the fold.

Unfortunately for these men, Scripture knows no such office as sheep dog. Those who reside within the Body of Christ can only be sheep or shepherds. No middle position exists. Either a man is called to the work of a shepherd, set apart for leadership and accountable to God for his flock, or he is called to follow those whom God has granted such authority. If a sheep, his duty is to faithfully heed the leading of his shepherds; if a shepherd, his duty is to soberly guard the flock of Christ.

But such vigilante blog authors, unordained and without office, write as though the future of the Church of Jesus Christ were personally entrusted to them, turning into barking snarling sheep, ravagers of the flock through their attacks on its shepherds.

What is the Biblical status of such men? You won't hear them admit it....

More often than not you won't hear it from their shepherds either. Caught between the devil of ignoring his critic and the deep blue sea of answering a fool according to his folly, even the stalwart shepherd eventually lapses into silence. The shepherd has a flock to nourish and protect, his time for self-defense is limited by the needs of his flock. His foe, however, knows no such constraint. The barking sheep lives for his shepherd's attention. Every response heightens his self-esteem. Every word of opposition increases his self-righteousness.

But though shepherds may remain silent, the Bible clearly address the deeds of such men. The sin of patricide is the most despicable offense against the second table of the Law. To kill one's own father is, by direct implication, to kill The Father. Thus the Law places extremely high hedges around parental authority: the child who strikes his parents must die by stoning; the child who curses his parents must likewise die.

The sin committed by the barking sheep is that of spiritual patricide. The barking sheep lifts his hand against his father in the Lord; it should be readily apparent to all true Christians that the one who commits such wickedness will not be held guiltless by God. Just as the Law does not discriminate between striking to kill, striking to hurt and merely speaking against parents, so too all forms of spiritual patricide lead eventually to death.

Paul warns Timothy against dealing intemperately with older men. When they sin they should be appealed to as fathers rather than sharply rebuked. This is God's command to a young man holding ordained office for the treatment of older, unordained men guilty of sin. How much more imperative, then, that office-less young men refrain from attacking the Lord's anointed, those undershepherds of Christ ordained to govern Christ's Flock?

Faithful sheep of the flock need to understand this about such men: they are not sheep dogs. According to the Word of God the creature, neither sheep nor shepherd, lurking malevolently at the fringes of the sheepfold is a wolf.

For the sake of God's glory the faithful Christian must regard such men as the wolves they are while at the same time honoring faithful shepherds for standing firm and enduring the stripes of their service. The more persistently and alarmingly these creatures snarl the more determinedly we must heed the words of Scripture which call us to have nothing to do with such mockers:

Jude 18-23 (NASB95) In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
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Comments

So what happens when a shepherd is teaching false doctrine? Are the sheep to simply leave the fold, or are they to challenge the false doctrine with Biblical truth?

Your 'shepherdness' certainly seems to have 'puffed' you up. Kind of like the Sprouls...how dare any question us!

Mr Bayly, I can see where you are coming from...it is a shame when such a person as you describe does what you described. But this leaves a glaring hole in Godly accountability for church leaders. How then can one object to the actions of a "shepherd?" By what you've written, there is no room to ever dispute a pastor. What does one do when the conscience of the pastor is no longer keeping him from sin, and wolfish sin at that? Is it not Christ's Church and not a particular pastors. A pastor is not as a pope, is he? You don't consider pastors to be gatekeepers do you? The patriarchal system hardly fits in this case unless we are talking Rome. There does seem to be a bit of the infallible to your description of the pastorate. All this is not to goad you on. I am sincerely curious what your answers to these questions are. I have been edified by your writing in the past, and I hope that continues. I would also like to say here that I have no irons in any of the fires here or other places.

What is your biblical support for making a pastor equal to a father? That seems quite the leap to me. You proved your point much more thoroughly by quoting the book of Jude than by equating gossip with patricide.

I am not Presbyterian, so I do not have the perspective of how the Presbyterian church governs itself...

But at our church, our "head" pastor (for lack of a better term) is the "teaching elder" and is under the authority of the council of elders. That's where his accountability is. I suspect it is similar in the Presbyterian world.

But the concern about what is being described here as well as how it has occasionally been expressed on this board...I suspect that comes from the radical individualism that is so rampant in this country. We abhor authority. Women abhor being under the authority of a man. Men abhor being under the authority of the church. (Both statements are obviously generalizations.) And on and on it goes.

A wonderful book that was published around a decade ago in some ways describes the individualism. It's entitled, "Slouching Toward Gomorrah" by Judge Robert Bork. He does a very nice job of analyzing our culture and how we got here.

Charley

>What does one do when the conscience of the pastor is no longer keeping him from sin, and wolfish sin at that?

The elders hold him accountable? Unless of course you are in a pastor as dictator church which isn't very wise.

Bitter, vengeful ex-employees love to bark, bite, and make dirty. Slander is the weapon of the man (or woman) who has no faith and prays no prayers.

David, Please tell me how one would be able to tell if they were in a "pastor as dictator" church. What if they were in this circumstance? It seems to me that the reasoning going with this article is that no one is allowed to point out the emperor's nudity. In fairness to Mr. Bayly he hasn't answered anything yet and so I'm looking forward to his answers/clarification.

Hmmmm, if the Church of Jesus Christ is NOT personally entrusted to "vigilante blog authors, unordained and without office," is Christ's bride entrusted to UNORDAINED elders/pastors who operate outside of church polity and accountability?

While there are certainly "internet assassins" out there who attack their ex-pastors and others, what is one to do when following the biblical pattern of Matthew 18 fails? When the pastor has NO accountability to anyone whatsoever? When others are flocking to a particular church only to be hurt because no one warned them? When there is a continual pattern of abuse on the part of the pastor/elder? When you know others will get hurt if you do not graciously, and with loving kindness, intervene? Just sit back and watch other sheep get eaten, too?

>David, Please tell me how one would be able to tell if they were in a "pastor as dictator" church.

Do you have elders?

>When the pastor has NO accountability to anyone whatsoever?

See above.

And if the eldership is complicit with the pastor, I believe there are procedures that an individual can follow to take a matter to presbytery (an advantage of presbyterian goverance over congregationalism). Doing this is a lot different than, say, creating a web site to spank your pastor around and raise your own profile.

David Gray is right: individualism is rampant. It's hard for me and probably most other men to put ourselves under the authority of others.

M. Kessler wrote: "What is your biblical support for making a pastor equal to a father? That seems quite the leap to me."

The Bible assumes that the pastor is a father in the household of God.

The apostle Paul always called himself a father:

1 Corinthians 4:14-21
I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

Philippians 2:22
But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.

Titus 1:4
To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Philemon 8-10
Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you--I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus--I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.

In case we may think that that was unique to Paul, the Holy Spirit is plain that the church is a household that is lead by fathers:

Galatians 6:10
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Ephesians 2:19
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

1 Timothy 3:4-5
He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?

1 Timothy 3:14-15
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth.

1 Peter 4:17
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

I hope this helps.

I didn't think this post was particularly controversial, I wouldn't have expected so many concerns about this teaching.

My guess is that most of those that expressed concerns are not currently suffering under a dictator or heretic. It seems that as individualistic Americans, we need to have an escape clause.

My encouragement to these people would be to trust and submit to your pastors in the same way that you would like your wives to trust and submit to you.

There are various situations where it would be appropriate for my wife to not submit to my authority, and even scenarios where it would be permissable for her to divorce me. But if she were to ask me to explain to her all of the policies and procedure that would apply in various cases, I would conclude that her heart has not submitted to my authority.

If, on the other hand, she comes to me to tell me that she is thankful for my efforts in leading her, and that she is committed to submission, I will be strengthened, and I will strive all the more to fulfill my calling as a husband, loving her sacrificially and working towards her sanctification.

Please submit to your pastors with your whole heart. Perhaps you could even encourage your pastor by clearly communicating your committment to submit to him. Such humility would be a great blessing to him, and would most likely spur him to be more faithful in how he uses his authority.

I will submit but at the same time test all teaching as a Berean. You see, even as a lowly woman, I will stand before the Judgement Throne...all alone. I will not be standing behind my husband pointing at him and saying, he told me to. Same goes for the pastor.

I am not Presbyterian so do not come from such a heirarchical background at church. Too much power in the hands of those who are not humble and godly at church is a very dangerous thing. Sadly we keep seeing it over and over.

Be a Berean Folks. Test everything. Your leaders need to be pure, not puffed up, humble, loving, just, etc. If they are not, go somewhere else. There has been enough spiritial abuse out there trying to control people and their pocketbooks. Quite frankly, I am surprised that pastors would post such things as I have seen on this blog.

Lin, I think you're missing the point. Certainly David allows for the rebuke or discipline of a wayward shepherd--the Scripture he cites explicitly notes the procedures for doing so. All he's pleading for is for it to be done in a Biblical manner.

And yes, the pastor/shepherd/elder/overseer is a sort of father--read Ephesians 5 & 6. There is a reason that God's authority over the church is paralleled with that of a father over his children.

You're quite right to object, if you will, that this course of action doesn't always work. In that case, the Biblical response is to shake the dust off your feet and simply walk away. Your presence at a Bible-fearing fellowship and absence from the sinful one is witness enough against them.

This blog entry seems to be a thinly disguised attempt to scold [John Doe]. But if it is, it's worth noting that [Doe] has never been a member of Bayly's congregation, and therefore does not come under his authority. It's further worth noting that just because a blog such as this one, posted publicly for all the world to see, attempts to teach, does not mean that such pastors have authority over those who read it. If they wish to restrict their comments to those under their authority only, perhaps a private e-newsletter would be a better venue.

Complaining when a publicly posted document is commented upon in a way the authors don't like, by those over whom the authors have no pastoral authority, is really quite unreasonable.

Every rebel and arrogant malcontent calls their pastor a "dictator", rants darkly about "dictatorial" elders (no matter how meek the elders really are), and the looming danger in the church of "authoritarianism".

That's how you excuse making the pastor's life horrible. You get to bite, kick, and claw him and his family at will, and if he protests, well, that's just more proof of how selfish and unprincipled he is!

There need to be objective marks of measuring when a pastor really is being dictatorial -- public opinion is not a reliable guide. God-haters (which is what pride really is) will accuse all pastors of heavy-handedness and that they need to be put in their place (usually by slandering them behind their backs, hopefully followed by firing them); and there are cultminded people who will let any leader do anything, which is equally bad.

Light, I think that you miss what's really going on. I've seen a few of the websites attacking various men in His service, and they are in general full of innuendo, unsubstantiated inferences, and the like. Very often, they also descend into various forms of racism.

In short, they're using anonymity and being out of the church to "get away with" behavior that would quickly get them excommunicated were they in the church. It is truly repulsive.

The first woman was not only created equal in authority to the man (Genesis 1:26, 27), she was also held equally accountable for her part in the Fall (Genesis 3:16). She could have cast the devil out of there. Adam could not make her decisions for her. God did not accept any excuses from either one of them. Wives cannot hide behind their husbands and say "Well, he told me to do it!" Wives will be held equally accountable to God for their actions, which deals a death-blow to patriarchy by removing woman out from under man's authority and making her directly accountable to God. How ennobling that is for women!

>There need to be objective marks of measuring when a pastor really is being dictatorial

Perhaps if he is not accountable to the elders of the church?

Kathryn,

Are you attempting to teach men here?

I still wonder what the "sheep" are to do, though, in the case of a pastor preaching a sermon contrary to Scripture. If the elders won't do anything about it, what to the sheep do? Are they to leave the church, or take another action. Clearly, the Bible obligates us to go to a sinning brother in person BEFORE we take it public, but what if a sinning pastor refuses to repent? Do members of the flock have no responsability to love other sheep when they are being harmed by an unbiblical message?

No. Certain structural accountability systems are better than others in principle. But no one is mandated by God to attend any specific church. Where is the "right" board? We talk about submitting to "elders", as if there's some machine that stamps out "good" elders, versus all the other bad ones. Are Presbyterian boards automatically wise and good, while some other denomination's boards are all foolish and bad? Do elder boards not sin, and sometimes sin grievously?

A pastor is not automatically right with God just because he puts themselves under accountability to elder group A as opposed to elder group B or C. E.g., you're not a good Christian if you follow the Pope; but following the board of 1st Prez vs. the guys at 1st Baptist doesn't make you a good Christian either. In fact, I'd say that submitting yourself to the modern American Episcopal system the way it is now puts you in rebellion against God.

To think that way is to run the risk of turning into a cult. A structure is never be any better in practice than the actual people who run it, and the principles that the structure is supposed to gird. I'm thinking about principles and characteristics of a leader going off the rails, taken from scripture.

There are some Bible characters who exemplify bad leadership -- King Saul and Israel's other wicked kings, Diotrophes in III John, whoever it was that Paul called the "super-apostles" in II Corinthians, the Judaizers from Galatians. The definitions of good vs. bad leadership has to come from the Bible. If Scriptural principles expose a leader as a wicked leader, then we're honor bound to remove ourselves from his authority, even if his whole board throws him a party.

The "no" response is directed to David Gray's question, not Scott Tibbs.

First of all, I want to thank Steven Baker for his answer to my first question. It's obvious that he put time into it, which was very gracious.

Secondly, David Gray could learn something from the method of Steven Baker's response. Instead of answering what Kathryn had put forth, Gray insulted her with God-speak. Kathryn is in submission to her husband (if married) and their church. Perhaps David Gray is one of her elders, but since she left no last name, I get the impression she is not. If some faceless Christian talked to my esteemed wife that way, or to my wise mother that way, it would seem to me that that man was not rebuking her in a holy, biblical way, but just throwing his weight around.

God bless you all, and I am thankful to see so many people intelligently and humbly contemplating The Word.

>No.

Yes.

You said "There need to be objective marks of measuring when a pastor really is being dictatorial."

I said "Perhaps if he is not accountable to the elders of the church?" Well the bible directs our churches to be elder led. If a pastor refuses to be accountable to elders that is an objective mark of pastoral disobedience.

>Certain structural accountability systems are better than others in principle.

Well the bible says churches are to be elder led, not one man shows. So if our "principle" is to be obedience to the word of God there is a "structural accountability system" which we should employ.

>"But no one is mandated by God to attend any specific church. Where is the "right" board? We talk about submitting to "elders", as if there's some machine that stamps out "good" elders, versus all the other bad ones.

Who said anything like that? But failure for a pastor to be accountable to elders is rebellion. That doesn't guarantee good elders but failure to be accountable is not acceptable.

>Are Presbyterian boards automatically wise and good, while some other denomination's boards are all foolish and bad?

Who said anything like that? However if a pastor is accountable in an elder led church he is at least being obedient in that aspect.

>Do elder boards not sin, and sometimes sin grievously?

Who said anything like that?

>A pastor is not automatically right with God just because he puts themselves under accountability to elder group A as opposed to elder group B or C.

Who said anything like that?

>E.g., you're not a good Christian if you follow the Pope; but following the board of 1st Prez vs. the guys at 1st Baptist doesn't make you a good Christian either.

Who said anything like that?

>In fact, I'd say that submitting yourself to the modern American Episcopal system the way it is now puts you in rebellion against God.

You have sent forth an army of straw men, at least battalion strength.

>Gray insulted her with God-speak

Cute. What does it mean?

Ohhhh-K. I thought we were going to converse about how to tell if a leader needs correction, vs. rebellious sheep that bark and bite. But you've got some agenda of which I was unaware, and your replies take the attitude that I have some agenda (of which I'm also unaware). I'll let other people figure it out.

>I thought we were going to converse about how to tell if a leader needs correction, vs. rebellious sheep that bark and bite.

I thought I was replying to something you actually said.

>But you've got some agenda of which I was unaware

Nothing but what I said.

>your replies take the attitude that I have some agenda (of which I'm also unaware)

Nothing but what you said.

An elder, whether a preacher or a lay elder, becomes disqualified for leadership if he is:

Maritally unfaithful.
Volatile.
Irrational or lacking in sense.
Chronically rude or uncivil.
Inhospitable.
Can't communicate God's Word to others.
A drug user or alcoholic.
Violent.
Greedy or covetous.
Harsh.
Argumentative.
Has a mismanaged household and/or kids.
Is a new convert.
Has a (deservedly) bad reputation with outsiders.

1st Timothy 3:1-7

A man is also disqualified if he:

loves to be #1 in the church.
Separates for no good reason from other believers.
Prates against believers with malicious words.
Disfellowships others for not "separating" from the people he's illegitmately disfellowshipped.

III John 9-10

Deviating from core doctrinal standards clearly disqualifies a man. Hymenaeus and Philetus were rejected because they preached full preterism (2 Timothy 2:17-18). Antinomianism was another serious error (James 2:14-26), salvation by works yet another (Galatians 1:6-9).

The whole congregation is charged to evaluate what they hear (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The congregation had the responsibility to judge the prophets (1 Corinthians 14:29), and any speaker who disregarded the apostle was not to be recognized (14:38). A sheep who barks against such things isn't actually barking, he's baa-ing legitimately. The congregation is the highest and final discipling body in a church, not the elders (Matthew 18:15-17). The church at large has the authority to discipline an elder.

Any elder or elder board that demands unconditional obedience to itself has gone cultic, and should either be disciplined and deposed; or, if that's not possible, the family should withdraw from that fellowship posthaste.

Mr. Bayly,

Keep up the good work. Don't let the Hugo Chavez' of the blogging world get you down.

Cheers,

David Hoos

Actually, m.kessler, Kathryn's false, spirit of the age teaching has been dissected by Tim and others in a hundred different posts (in fact, in the one just prior to this post). The obviousness of Scripture on the matter is certainly why it was not seriously argued until the latter 20th century.

All indications are that her last name is "Vance"

Scott Tibbs started off the comments with the right question: what about a church whose leaders are clearly wrong?

A major problem with the Church in America--- perhaps THE biggest problem, organizationally--- is that orthodox Christians in the congregation fail to call unbelieving pastors and denominational leaders to account. It may well be that in the PCA denomination, aggressive sheep are the bigger problem, but in most denominations, the sheep are too trusting.

Amen to David Hoos.

Yes, faithless pastors are too often trusted by their sheep, the blind leading the blind. But the faithlessness of pastors is not simply a matter of those who deny the Gospel--say mainliners such as Bishop Spong. Even the most ignorant sheep should be able to glean enough from TV and the newspaper to steer clear of the mainline denominations because of the very high rate of unbelief and apostasy among their pastors.

The vast majority of Americans, though, are not in mainline, but evangelical churches. And the faithlessness of the pastors and elders they trust to take them to green pastures is much more deceptive and, therefore, deadly. It consists of saying God's "yes" without His "no;" of saying "'Peace, peace!' where there is no peace;" of preaching faith but not repentance; of hesitating to say everything God tells us to say to our flocks; of avoiding the breach in the wall while making a big show of celebrating the section of the wall where the heroes of last century fought off the enemy's breaching efforts; of preaching without application; of saying God's "no" timidly, without authority; of correcting and rebuking from the pulpit, but never in person; of scratching itching ears; of shepherding as a means of making money; of inoculating our flocks to the authority of the Word of God while making much of its inspiration; of trimming those truths that cut against the grain of our board of elders; of avoiding the biblical doctrine of sexuality entirely, allowing those in our flock who defy God's Word concerning, particularly, feminism to continue in their defiance without sounding a clear note of warning; in summary, of refusing to give up our lives for our sheep.

That is the true danger today, and any that accuse David or me of demanding blind obedience of pastors and elders have not read the first thing we've written. This entire blog is aimed at leaders such as this who have abandoned their flocks to the wolves.

Make no mistake, the pastor the above paragraph describes will have a respectable evangelical congregation; and as it grows, all the accoutrements of evangelical culture will be prominent in his ministry lending a certain Billy Graham/Wheaton/Willow Creek/James Dobson/Chuck Colson/Navigators/R. C. Sproul respectability that encourages everyone to drop their Berean guard. But his sheep will be exposed on the hilltops, oblivious to the wolves who, under cover of thick darkness, are closing in on them.

Think I'm overly dramatic? Open your Bibles, and then your eyes.

Jack,

Glad to see you've climbed on board!

I wonder what would have happened had the Israleites responded to Deborah this way. Was raising up Deborah a bad move on God's part? Are you ready to follow a Deborah? Sheesh.

The quote from David Gray, "Are you attempting to teach men here?" was deleted from the above post. Sorry.

He who has ears, let him hear. Emphasis added, for many here seem to need to remove planks from their own eyes.

"Let your conversation be always full of GRACE, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone"
Colossians 4:6

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with GENTLENESS and respect"
1 Peter 3:25

Hey Light,

Judge not, lest ye be judged.

I'm not saying that to annoy you or to make fun of you or anything like that. What I want to do is point out that your continual concern with somebody else removing the plank from their eye is entirely ridiculous! The verse I quote and the one you quote are often used together. However, simply lobbing them back and forth at each other isn't going to do any good. Don't make the oh so common mistake of thinking that the verses you quote applies to everybody except yourself.

-Joseph

"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit."
"You brood of vipers..."
"Purge the evil person from among you."

Would Light have upbraided the speakers of these words, too? Gentleness and respect aren't necessarily milquetoast. As Jude tells us some need different treatment than others.

God didn't raise Deborah up, the Israelites (passive, like the majority of men in our age) raised her up. God used her, but there was no ordination.

It was obvious from Kathyrn's statement that she wasn't the slightest bit interested in submitting to her husband. Her quote "which deals a death-blow to patriarchy by removing woman out from under man's authority".

The difference between Christ's invective and ours is that Christ's invective was always (frighteningly) 100% accurate, where we tend to just curse people out and make snide remarks because we get irritated or our pride is hurt. Christ called the Pharisees "vipers" because they spewed verbal poison and wanted to put him in the ground.

There's a time to be soft, then there are times to be hard. To think that we should always be soft assumes that there aren't truly evil, rotten people in this world who deserve public condemnation.

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