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All through scripture we (the Church body) are referred to as “sheep.” If you really stop and think about it for a moment, you will quickly see all the incredible similarities. Over and over the Lord speaks to us as a good and faithful Shepherd, knowing that we are completely hopeless and helpless without His care and protection over us.
John 10:14 says, “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
For the past 18 years as a Worship Pastor & Artist, I have been blessed with the opportunity to interact and serve all across the country in many different Church denominations and congregations. It has really helped me understand the function, purpose, and health of the local church in America in so many ways.
Specifically, I have learned a lot about the different kinds of sheep in the vast pasture of the Lord. It has opened my eyes and caused me to consider what kind of sheep I am? What kind of sheep are you? Here are a few to consider...
These precious little sheep are wandering in the darkness, lost and afraid, confused and unaware of who they are and why they are alive. They are often found stuck in traps and in chains, longing to be rescued and yearning to hear the peaceful voice of the Shepherd for direction and purpose. They have yet to understand true love and have never experienced true rest. (See Matthew 10.)
These little ones are somewhat malnourished. Hungry, yet not feeling completely satisfied or filled. They tend to rebel often and wander outside of the fold searching for their identity and sense of belonging. They desire direction and guidance from the Shepherd, but often find themselves outside of His will and leaning on their own plans. They are controlled by their feelings. They love the taste of warm milk but have not yet enjoyed a healthy meal to help them to grow stronger. They are comforted by the voice of the shepherd but quickly fall into doubt and mistrust. They try to stay close by the Shepherd, but are prone to distraction and wandering.
In the Church, they enjoy following those around them and feeding off of the leftovers at times. They try to get connected by serving but they struggle with commitment. The lean sheep have a strong future and so much potential. (See Ezekiel 34.)
These poor overweight sheep are very comfortable and lazy. They are slow and in the way. Constantly consuming, they find themselves only concerned about what they are being fed and how it's being fed to them. They know the Shepherds voice but have a hard time hearing Him over their own voices. They are quickly annoyed and impatient with the other sheep and are quick to push the young and weak ones out of their way.
In the Church, the fat sheep are quick to whine and complain about changes, worried about how it will effect themselves. They give and serve at times, but never until it hurts and only for status and to be seen. They are slow to invite outsiders into their circle of influence and are quick to push out anyone that stands in their way. The fat sheep have a distorted view of worship in the Church and make their preferences and negative opinions known to many for the purpose of gaining influence and swaying leadership. They are consumed by fear and pride, they lack joy and encouragement, and they have forgotten their first love, their passion for discipleship, and their urgency to reach the lost. (See Ezekiel 34.)
These sheep are visibly healthy & happy, completely dependent not on themselves but on the Shepherd. They are clearly filled with joy and strength as they are full of energy and excitement, living with confidence in the moment and rejoicing and resting in the presence of the good Shepherd. The healthy sheep are filled with grace, peace, and humility as they have been broken and carried by the shepherd along the way. They are not worried about the road ahead or concerned about where or when their next meal will come. They find daily comfort and restoration by quiet waters when they are thirsty. They can clearly discern the voice of the Shepherd above all the other voices and noises around them.
In the Church, the healthy sheep come alongside the lean and the fat sheep with patience, understanding, and grace, sacrificing their own provisions to take care of those in need. They thrive when things are uncomfortable and are relaxed when things change. They are always finding new ways to serve in the Church and are committed to building the body. Their hearts break for the Lost sheep and will do whatever it takes to reach them.
I believe if we are completely honest, we will most likely see glimpses of ourselves and even images from our past journey in the traits of each these four types of sheep.
Unfortunately the most prominent in our American church culture is the “fat” sheep. The American Church culture has become so very consumer driven in so many ways that it is incredibly difficult to stay in shape and healthy as one of the Lord's sheep. It has sort of become like a country club where we can go and find the church that is comfortable and that fits our needs and desires.
We need diet... A detox... A revival!
I believe with all my heart, that if we return to our good and faithful Shepherd for guidance, discipline, and direction, we will see an incredible revival in the Church and in America.