There is little doubt about where wolves in sheep’s clothing come from. Jesus told us in plain language that life would be full of them. Without a great dissertation, we can chalk their existence up to sin, to Satan, and to selfishness prowling through this wicked and curse weakened world. They are prowlers, devourers, and destroyers, who have appetites to satisfy and imaginations to gratify. They are people who are presented to be right and holy on the outside, but are really rotten and hellish on the inside. They speak with golden tongues, and eat with bloody lips. Generally speaking, they can exist in any context. They may exist heroically in the eye of the public as a teacher, a doctor, a police officer, as we have seen lately a football and basketball coach, or any public figure that is socially viewed as a wholesome role model. Spiritually speaking, and textually speaking, they also exist as preachers of the gospel, teachers of the Bible, and leaders of the Lord’s churches.
Across the board of public vision exists the permanent plague of wolves wearing the wool of wholesomeness prowling about seeking whom they may devour. Rarely do a months worth of news reports go by without hearing of some teacher student immorality, or some coach student abuse. While the Penn State scandal and the Syracuse Basketball scandal have caused the country to “feign” shock and awe that such abuse could dare go on; the reality is that these kinds of crimes, and wickedness have been happening for centuries. As long as there has been a sin-cursed man, there have been physically and spiritually abused children. We have put the deadliness of sin so far out of our daily minds that it seems we have forgotten just how horrible sin really is, and the evil sin really does. It is atrocious.
But the source and substance of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is not what I want to address. Rather I want to address their success.
What I want to deal with here is specifically dealing with wolves in the sanctuary and prowlers in the pulpit. Whether we are talking about wolves who prowl for flesh, finances, or personal followers, the question here is simple; who keeps letting them in? Who is it that is to guard against wolves living in the flock and leading the flock?
I recently read an article on another blog that seems to take aim at clergy in general, but indirectly makes another point.
“The church and “Christian” organizations already are safe havens for abusers! It’s the blatant lack of accountability, trust in “men of God” just because they say they’re “called by God” and can quote scripture and toss out spiritual sound bites, and the unwillingness by church leadership to report abuse or suspicion thereof to the authorities and their congregations that have resulted in churches being safe havens for these perverts for years.”
While I will not disagree with some truth (not all) in that statement, there are a couple of things that could be added.
First of all, it is the role of the pastor/undershepherd to guard against wolves living in the flock. In Paul’s famous address to the Ephesian elders, the Holy Spirit eloquently directed us to, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. ” One of the fundamental roles of the pastor/elder is to take responsibility for the safety of flock. He is to guard against those prowling for prey, and I believe that to be in all senses whether it be spiritual, physcial, or financial. I grant, and agree that the responsibility for the watch care over the flock rests squarely on the pastor.
Second, and here is what needs to be added. What if the pastor is the wolf? Now before we deal with the answer, let’s ask another question. If the pastor is the wolf, then who let him in? The congregation. While the pastor is responsible for keeping wolves from living in the flock, the congregation has the responsibility to keep wolves from leading the flock.
There is a phrase in the above quote that must be illuminated if the wolves are ever going to stop entering the sanctuary. Most likely I am taking this out of context, but in and of itself it demonstrates one of the molecular problems in Christianity today; “trust in “men of God” just because they say they’re “called by God” and can quote scripture and toss out spiritual sound bites,” Trust in men of God just because they say they’re called of God, is ignorant trust!
Wolves get into the sanctuary because the gatekeepers welcome them in on their word. If one wants to blame the wolf for being a wolf, then that’s just fine, but at some point there must also be some responsibility on the flock for calling him.
In my observation here has been the result of modern day Christians encountering too many wolves; they won’t trust anyone. Rather than bad pastors being thrown under the bus, the pastorate has been thrown under the bus. Rather than exercising discernment, many have amputated obedience by merely ruling out the true God called, and God ordained men, by declaring all of them spoiled.
What should believers do with a man who claims the call of God on his life? Distrust him? Or discern him. The Lord has laid out for every believer the qualities and characteristics of the men that He has called to lead His New Testament churches. First Timothy three and Titus chapter one, is a faithful filter that every God called man can pass through. No man is perfect, can be, or will be, in this life. However, the real men of God will in general have these qualities about his life for men to see and examine.
Now that being said, I will say yes, pastors have a significant role in stopping wolves from living in the flock. But congregations also need to stop calling them. It is not that they don’t need to trust anyone, it is that they need to practice discernment enough to stop trusting the wrong men, and start trusting the right men. That doesn’t mean the right men won’t make mistakes, but the right men won’t devour the sheep. When churches start accepting their responsibility for discerning the difference between the wrong man, and the right man, then that too will be a welcomed change worth making.