Thursday, October 16, 2014

Commentary: Sheep dogs are not the stars of the show

By Rev. Pat Woolever, Assisting Elder, Harrisburg District

He was black and white and shivering with anticipation. Body low to the ground, waiting for a whistle, his face toward the sheep. One whistle and he sprang into action. He brought the sheep around the pasture and toward the shepherd. Another whistle and he dropped to the ground with his eyes always on the sheep and their slightest movement.

It was a magnificent display! And then I thought, “Wait a minute. The star of the show is not the sheep dog but the sheep.” They are the reason for the sheep dog, they are what will bring the shepherd money for wool or meat. In this somewhere is a metaphor for today’s church. At some point my metaphor will break down as all metaphors do but I think you will see where my mind went in my reflection.
Today the church is often an event much like the sheep dog event that I saw. We attend worship to be inspired, to watch for the movement of the sheep dog, to see how well it all comes together, to be entertained. The laity are merely the audience. Any criticism of the event goes to the shepherd or the inept sheep dog. 
But what about the sheep? The whole thing in a working fold is about the shepherd and the sheep, the sheep following the direction of the shepherd, and the shepherd caring for the sheep. It is not about the sheep dog or the dazzling skill of the sheep dog.

What about the laity? There is no church with only one part of the body we call the pastor. The church is about the whole body. Who has what gift? Who is using their gift? Who helps another to follow the Shepherd? Every person has a ministry to do—the usher, the sweeper, the teacher, the cook, the baseball player, the garage mechanic, the audio visual worker, the singer, the mother, the grandmother, the father, the grandfather, the hand holder, the encourager .... Everyone has a ministry and everyone needs everyone. Everyone can help someone discover their ministry. Everyone can pray for a ministry. Everyone can share what they know. Everyone has a ministry even if it is not a “church job.” We are in ministry where we are, right in this moment, when it is done for the glory of God.

And now the metaphor is about to break down. Sheep do not go out and find other sheep and bring them to the fold. However, that is exactly the work of the whole body of believers. We are to go out from the sheepfold and find those who are lost, broken, sick, defenseless, and defiant and bring them home. That is not the job of the sheep dog. That is the job of every follower of Jesus. We bring them home, we introduce them to the shepherd, we help them — as the shepherd guides — to grow up in the Shepherd’s love, and they go out to find other sheep. It is all about the shepherd and the sheep.

Every lay person has a sphere of influence. It is those persons that he/she knows, with whom he/she interacts or comes into contact. A church of 30 people can have more influence and contact with those whom God wishes to bring home than one pastor. It is crucial then that every person discover their gifts, use their gifts, and be intentional about building relationships with those who have not yet found a relationship with God. Think then of what a church of 100 or ten or 300 could do in one community. Church is all about the laity who follow Jesus and are transformed and transforming. 

Church is not an event. It is a powerful transforming community that has in it the power of God to transform the world.

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