LTRP Note: The following article, which we previously posted five years ago, is written by a long-time Lighthouse Trails reader who is a lay preacher and evangelist from Canada. He encouraged us to post this specifically on behalf of the many dedicated commentators, authors, readers, and contenders of the faith who stand for truth and are devoted to warning others.
By Dick Leppky
SHEEPDOG: Sheepdogs help to identify and prevent the “wolves” (often dressed in sheep’s clothing) from hurting the sheep. Sheepdogs understand that truth is powerful, at times painful, and equally unpopular. However, truth is necessary . . . and it sets the Christian free. Sheep who “tolerate” the sheepdog learn to appreciate that they keep the wolves away.
SHEPHERDS and SHEEPDOGS: Some shepherds cannot tell the difference between a sheepdog and a wolf and chase the dog away. The loss to the shepherd and the flock can be tragic. Other shepherds think they are sufficient by themselves. In spite of their preoccupied schedules and workload, they are often too proud to accept assistants. This attitude can be disastrous. Every shepherd needs a sheepdog. Moses needed helpers, and God sent them. One of his greatest was Caleb—whose name in Hebrew, significantly, means “sheepdog.” (It may also mean devoted, faithful, wholehearted, brave.)
We are aware that wolves and sheepdogs can look much alike and that shepherd/pastors must proceed cautiously; but we also know it can be spiritual suicide for a pastor to pretend he is God’s sole gift to the church.
If the church does not have sheepdogs, it indicates the pastor’s failure to recognize and encourage the development of spiritual gifts in his flock. Churches across North America are literally dying and/or falling victim to false teachings because pastors are not accepting and mentoring their Calebs. Pulpit preaching does not usually fill this role. Good shepherding success requires the recognition of spiritual gifts within HIS church, encouraging them and helping development of the “body” gifts. The proof of a church being a true biblical organism is that God has “the whole body fitly joined together” (Ephesians 4:16) with different parts working together in harmony. Paul had Timothy, Barnabas had Silas and other sheepdogs and helpers. He explained it as: “according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (v. 16).
A healthy church is a gifted church. If there is no spiritual gift recognition, it is clearly not God’s fault. The best example may be like a good football team: A captain or two, defense and offense, lineman and line backers, receivers and defenders. When they work in harmony, you have a winning team. (Not just because of qualified quarterbacks, captains or coaches.)
Two Core Biblical Mandates
Having visited hundreds of evangelical churches across North America and several other countries, combined with 1000s of hours of research, I have a basic analysis that at least two core biblical mandates are almost completely absent in the majority of denominational churches.
(1) The lack of discernment within evangelical churches and their leadership.
(2) The second is like unto the first. There is virtually no doctrinal discipleship happening in the congregations.
To put some descriptive details to this two-fold contention would require several conditions to be met:
(1) A willingness to spend some serious time to watch and listen to research conclusions, and
(2) A willingness to accept that there would be some identification of the denominations who have allowed this to come about and unapologetically identifying many of the so-called evangelical leaders who are in fact “the wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
As servants of the Master, this ought not be a deterrent. As Christian leaders, our first obligation is to our Lord and His Word. (“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” Matthew 24:10-11) Who are the ones to whom Jesus will say: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23)?
One of the essential qualities of true leaders is that they recognize their own limitations—and supplement that lack, by enlisting others. Paul would say—as another body part. Successful kings, presidents, and prime ministers always surround themselves with gifted assistants and delegate certain authorities to them. The burnout rate of pastors is disproportionate to almost every other leadership profession largely because they are unnecessarily flying solo most of the time.
If what I am saying sounds somewhat intolerant, it is because we grieve for congregations that are being endangered by the heresy and apostasy that has swept into evangelicalism in the past thirty years. Today, the growth of ecumenical falsehoods is exponentially compounding—while the pulpits remain silent! (Is this the church of Laodicea?)
Every shepherd needs a sheepdog. A shepherd without a Caleb is spiritually handicapped. Any flock of sheep, large or small, healthy or infirm, will attract wolves. It’s become much too obvious that a shepherd without a sheepdog is vulnerable to the wolves that come to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).
With the variety of our experience and research, we have witnessed this repeatedly. We have all met pastors and heard from thousands of sheep who feel powerless and frustrated by creeping (and now rushing) heresy that is ambiguously described as Purpose Driven, Willow Creek, Alpha, Spiritual Formation, Contemplative, Progressive, and other evolutionary humanistic language. In fact, most of this teaching is ecumenical universalism sprinkled with socialist Marxism, Roman Catholicism, Buddhism, and New Age type Hinduism. (Regardless of what their “token” faith statement says.)
If that’s not enough, much of this is originating from denominational head offices, most Christian colleges, Bible schools, and seminaries, plus hundreds of heretical authors and their publishers. Aided by TV programming and the Internet. Worst of all, individual churches and denominational conferences are compromising their own people by featuring and endorsing these false prophets in their pulpits and on their podiums.
(There is a growing need for sheepdogs that have the God-given gift and commitment for biblical discernment.)
We are not saying that sheepdogs will function perfectly . . . we are all imperfect vessels. What we are saying is that we can do much better; God has commanded us to do much better; and, in fact, His Word promises the diversified spiritual gifts to do much better. These are not self-proclaimed gifts. Our responsibility is to seek the Giver and Distributor of these gifts to each one individually as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11).
A Light in a Broken World?
Pride, ego and self-seeking must be set aside. Brothers and sisters in Christ must be able to accept the deeper heart/soul and eternal issues facing HIS church in these last days. Being honest, open, and non-compromising is clearly taught in His Word. Who are we to re-interpret that, as we cover-up and/or ignore the false teachings that are turning biblical Christianity into a shallow social-cultural religion that is no longer separated from and stands out as a light in a broken world.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.—Jesus (Matthew 5:13-15)
If you are a pastor, we pray God will bless your ministry with disciplined sheepdogs. If you are not a pastor, we pray God will confirm the spiritual gifts He has ordained for you. If sheepdog discernment quickens His Spirit in you, we would be pleased to hear from you. Either way, you are the winners, Satan is the loser—because, ultimately, God is in control.
Thank God for the Calebs in the church, for spiritual sheepdogs and shepherd pastors who recognize the contributions of assistants in their Kingdom work.
Thank you for your attention. (Truth is powerful—not popular)
Dick Leppky . . . on behalf of sheepdogs everywhere
We would love to make contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is only a New Testament sampling:
2nd Timothy 3:16 & 4:3-5; 2nd Peter 1:19-21; 1st Thessalonians 2:13; 1st Corinthians 2:12-16; 1st Timothy 6:3-5; Titus 1:9&13; Colossians 1:9-12 & 2:4&8
(John 17: 20-23: A careful word study that reveals the real unity that our Savior desires for us—as opposed to the false ecumenism practiced today)
(photos from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)