The Epistle of Jeremiah the Prophet to the Modern Church – Sheep Stealing

It is considered the biggest offence a church/pastor can commit. Those accused of committing this offence often are unfazed while those behind the accusations feel wronged in ways that cannot be measured. Do some churches set out to steal sheep? Some. Do some churches have sheep go missing because they aren’t being good shepherds? Some. Do some sheep change sheep pens because the grass is always greener in some other sheep pen? Some. Do some sheep look for a new shepherd because the one they have isn’t shepherding at all? Some. Is the type of sheep stealing that the modern church concerns itself with actually something God is concerned about? Sometimes.

If your goal is butts in the seats at all costs…             

…then I believe God is concerned. I do not buy into the modern church idea that the church’s function is to reach the lost. I would even go as far as to say that it is this form of evangelism that has led to declining numbers in the church not an increase. The church is a collective of individuals meeting to accomplish a corporate goal using music and public presentations to further its goal to strengthen believers in their faith so they can be a light to those without faith. Once you change the intended audience you must change the content so that you are able to connect. Once you change the audience you are also faced with changing the style to make sure the audience stays engaged. Once the audience dictates the style of engagement and the content they become the reason the institution exists. Once people not God become the reason the church exists the church is no longer what the church was intended to be. Butts in the seats at all costs actually means butts in the seat came with a huge cost.

Butts in the seat are really…

…sheep in a different pen. The modern church in all its efforts to reach the lost, often found the audience that was most interested in the content and style was comprised of church goers from other collectives of Christ followers. Those who wanted to be a part of a religious group but were not keen on being challenged to be different. Those who found their current church lacked the entertainment quality they desired. Those who wanted to be around people who made them feel good and around a message that made them feel they were part of reaching others. The problem is, the message is marketing and marketing is about selling a product and selling a product is about avoiding any truth that may make your product less likeable. The church has no product. The church is the place where those who follow Christ gather to encourage one another and be encouraged as we seek to be the people we are called to be. Christ followers are the ambassadors of a “product” so outrageous that its first ambassador was killed for revealing the truth about the “product.” I hate calling Christ following a “product” but it fits the metaphor I am using. Butts in the seats means marketing a product that for the most part is only appetizing to those who already have the product but don’t like the cost.

Sheep in a different pen…

…may be following the wrong type of shepherd. Any pastor or church organization that preaches Christ crucified and a call to allow God to transform you without reservation. Any pastor or church organization that encourages grace but does not excuse sin. Any pastor or church organization that does not shy away from the hard truths of the Bible. These are the sheep pens we should be in.  When the cross is not central. When transformation is not part of the process. When repentance is not the pivotal point for grace to be received. When hard Bible truths are replaced with a feel good, I’m okay, you’re okay message, get away from that shepherd. That’s not a sheep pen and a shepherd that leads the sheep in the way of the Great Shepherd.

I am sure that God is concerned when pastors and churches set out to steal sheep from other pens but I am convinced that God is angered when shepherds steal sheep from Him by building their own pen around their own desire to put butts in seats over souls in heaven.

“Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:14-15 (NIV)

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