If the sheep don’t follow, you’re not a shepherd.
MARCH 22, 2022
If the sheep don’t follow, you’re not a shepherd. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
This is Key Life with our host, author and seminary professor Steve Brown. He’s nobody’s guru. He’s just one beggar telling other beggars where he found bread. If you’re hungry for God, the real God, behind all the lies, you’ve come to the right place.
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible, open into the 11th chapter of the book of Acts, which we are studying. If you were listening yesterday, I ended by making a point. And, ran out of time, that happens often. And Jeremy, who is the producer of this program, he sits in a glass booth and I look at him through a big window. Jeremy said, well, didn’t have time to expound on that did you? And I said, well, I’ll talk about it tomorrow. So, now it’s tomorrow. And I’m going to tell you a little bit more. I closed with this statement. If the sheep aren’t following, then you’re not a shepherd. I got that from Pat Arnold, who was head of World Team years ago. And he was a member of our church and headed up the mission program of the church. And we had a very divisive thing and he told me at the time, if the sheep don’t follow, then you’re not a shepherd. And he applied it to me. He said, Steve, you’ve got to listen to what the congregation says. You’ve got to see what they think. You’ve gotta touch their hearts. You’ve gotta be present. These are your people, and you’re a shepherd. And if you look up and the people are going down another road away from you, then go into vinyl repair. You’re not a shepherd. You better do something else. There’s an old story about a man who was in Israel. And, he was stopped on a side road because a guy was putting his sheep across the road. And he had to wait until all the sheep got on the other side. And he said to the man who was driving the sheep, I thought shepherds lead sheep. And the guy said, you don’t understand, I’m not a shepherd, I’m a butcher. And, so you’ve got to be careful. And so, when God speaks, he doesn’t speak to one, he speaks to a bunch. That’s what the body of Christ is about. That’s what the teaching on gifts are about. And, you know we’re moving in the right direction when the bunch says this is the right direction. There have been all kinds of programs I’ve suggested to the church. And I was a pastor for a lot of years, 30 to be exact, you know I can get to heaven with works, they won’t even ask about Jesus. The angels will say, you were a pastor for that many years, you poor dear. You come on in, but sometimes I’d bring up programs either to the elders, some kind of vision I had or to congregation and try to stir them up and get them on board. And sometimes they said, you know that’s of God, you lead, we’ll follow. But other times they said something really spiritual, like, are you a fruitcake? Is there something wrong with you? What in the world have you been smoking? And when they said that, I stopped because of Acts 11, I stopped because when God speaks to one, he speaks to a brunch. Let me show you something else, you will notice and the question is still before the house. How do you know when the church is moving in the right direction? You will note in this 11th chapter of Acts, the proper direction of the church was judged by already prescribed and revealed standards, Acts 11:15 through 17.
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as the Holy Spirit had fall on us in the beginning. And I remembered
Here it comes.
the word of the Lord, how he said, John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
And I’m going to take that principle that Peter spoke of there and draw from it a principle that is really important. You don’t have to have a committee to decide where the church is to go. The Scripture always tells us where to go, where to go to then, the Scripture is important. I think I may have told you, but when I started as a pastor, I was a student pastor. I was in graduate school at Boston University and I didn’t believe much. And the reason I’d gone there is that they didn’t believe much either. I couldn’t shake this thing about being a Reverend. It had been with me since I was three years old, but once you can’t believe you’ve got a problem, if you’re going to be ordained and serve a church. And I found a school that didn’t believe much, and it was a good mix. And so, I became their student pastor and I loved those dear people, I really did. I played golf with them. I went fishing with them. We did clamming together, it was on Cape Cod. I mean, they were great people and I loved being with them. And then Jesus messed it up. I mean, I thought this is the best job I’ve ever had. Man, all I have to do is talk 15 or 20 minutes every week and I’m a good talker, so I can talk. And then I can go fishing or maybe play golf. And then as I said, Jesus, messed it up. And, I know, well, I’m not going to go into details, but all of a sudden God entered my life in a way that he had never done before. Our daughter was very sick and God intervened in a miraculous way and healed her. Not only that, God put brothers and sisters around me, who unbeknownst to me were praying for me daily. And not only that, I thought I was an intellectual in those days. God sent some brothers who were intellectuals. And when I met with them for lunch, they not only ate lunch, they ate my lunch. And I began to find out that they’ve read the books I’ve read and they thought about these things and they know and I don’t. And so, gradually God began to change me. And the place he changed me was the realization that I had no authority. And man, if you’re a pastor and you have no authority, you’re in trouble. And I’m not the brightest person on the face of the earth, but I’m not dumb either. And I began to see. I don’t have an anchor. I don’t have a rock. I don’t have the authority to stand in front of these people and talk to them. I’m not that smart. And that’s when I began to understand that I was kind of like the weatherman. I didn’t create the weather, I reported on it. I studied God’s word. And I began to tell the congregation what I felt like God was saying. And so, in a church, and we get questions all the time from people that say, we’re looking for a church, what should we look for? And I say, well, make sure that they have bingo on Friday nights. And they have a dance on Saturday nights and that the preacher tells good jokes and everybody’s nice. And, that the cover dish dinners are sumptuous. No, you don’t say, that’s not what makes a church? A church is not a church, if those are the main things in that church. A church is a church where Christ is exalted, the Scriptures are taught and people are doing their best to love each other. Let me say that again cause I think it’s important when we’re talking about the direction of the church. A church is a church and if these things aren’t present, Jesus leaves the building. A church isn’t a church, if Christ is not exalted, if the Scriptures are not taught and believed, and if people aren’t doing their best to love each other, it’s that simple. And so, as you look at the early church, Peter was very smart in quoting Jesus and what he said, because that is the authority. It’s the Bible, it’s the truth. And it’s been given to us and that’s why it’s so important, that when ever we make decisions about the direction of the church that we consult the Scriptures. I remember one time when Billy and Ruth Graham were worshiping in our church. And we went out to lunch together. And Mrs. Graham was sitting in the backseat of the car and some theological issue came up. And I heard a noise in the back seat and I turned around and Mrs. Graham had her big black Bible and she was thumbing through it. And she said, you know, I love the hard questions cause I get to check and find out what God says. Oh, that was good. And that was good. In terms of the principle we’re talking about. You don’t do it by committee. You don’t vote on God’s will. You find out what God’s will is as revealed in Scripture, then you go do what he tells you to do. That’s how you know, if the church is moving in the right direction. You think about that. Amen.
How can we know when the church is moving in the right direction? Great question and great answers from here in Acts 11. Thank you Steve. Still so much more to explore here and we will resume that work tomorrow. Hope you’ll join us for that. So, if you had to name a single issue that constantly hounds you, what would it be? Well for a lot of folks, it would be guilt, but here’s some great news. Jesus’ death paid the debt for all our sins, and that means guilt can actually lead us back to Christ to find true and lasting forgiveness. Steve wrote about this in a special mini-book called Feeling Guilty?: Grace for Your Mistakes. And you can get that mini-book for free right now by calling 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also drop an e-mail to Steve@keylife.org to ask for that mini-book. By mail, send your request to
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