Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Are You Chasing Goats Or Tending Sheep?

(This article was first posted on my blogsite on 10/31/07. With a few changes, I am reposting it here because of its relevance.)

According to Rick Warren, "Relationships are the glue that holds a church together. Friendships are the key to retaining members."

That's a cute bumper sticker sentiment but is it true? I guess the answer to that question really depends on whether your church's purpose is to raise goats or sheep.

Over a century ago in Europe, Charles Spurgeon wrote an article titled, "Are We Feeding Sheep Or Amusing Goats?" It is well worth reading. It is an amazingly parallel description of the church growth movement in contemporary American churches.

Is your pastor a shepherd or a goatherd? I found this definition of a GOATHERD in Wikipedia. It provides some very interesting and insightful correlations to the contemporary ideological deviations from fundamental orthodox worship in the Christian church.

A goatherd or a goatherder is a person who herds goats for a living. Similar to a shepherd who tends sheep for a living, the drover here herds goats. Goatherds are popular in countries where goat populations are natively high; for instance, in Africa and South Asia. Herding a goat is much more difficult than herding sheep as, unlike sheep, goats do not have a herd mentality and each goat will tend to stray farther in search of better foliage and grass. It is for this reason that, in these areas, goats are costlier than sheep.

From that definition, I offer the following observations and my comments:

  • Shepherds “tend” sheep; goatherds “herd” goats. The biblical pastoral work of a shepherd is to lead, guide, guard, feed, and protect the sheep. The more arduous task of goatherds is to relentlessly chase after the goats, round them up, herd them, drive them, and contain them.

  • Herding goats is much more difficult than herding sheep…goats do not have a herd mentality. Regarding sheep, Jesus said, ”My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” I think the fact that a flock of sheep tends to stay together is noteworthy (If all the sheep follow The Shepherd, then all the sheep will naturally be together). Shepherds are charged with tending the flock (a flock is a singular entity, a cohesive group, a herd). So shepherding is relatively easy in comparison to herding animals that have no herd mentality.

  • Goats tend to wander and stray farther in search of better (or different) foliage and grass. They are continually seeking more; more fun, more stimulation, more programs, more variety, more adventure, new relationships, new truth, new revelation, strange fire, more, MORE and MORE garbage to sate their insatiable appetites for anything and everything that is new or different.

  • Goats are costlier than sheep. Churches that get caught up in the activity of amusing goats will require more money to fund more programs and hire more staff to keep them amused and satisfied with new gimmicks. Someone said, “What you win them with is what you win them to.”
Here are a couple other interesting notes from a different source about the grazing habits of goats:
  • Goats do not feed very long in one place but tend to pick a bite here and a bite there moving from place to place. You can probably see where I’m headed with this. Sheep tend to stay near the shepherd who has already prepared a grazing place that is safe for them.  Because pastors (shepherds) lead the flock, sheep will feed on the Word; goats will run from morsel to morsel, from proof text to proof text, and often from church to church.

  • Goats are used much more effectively than sheep for weed control. The reason is that they move into an area and strip it of everything they see and then move on. Also, they will, indiscriminately, eat almost anything including trash. Enough Said.
Having noted these distinctions between shepherds and goatherds, It seems to me that some churches should more correctly refer to their pastors as “Goatherders” unless or until they cease amusing goats and start tending to their sheep. When that happens, they might discover what Rick Warren has missed; that the Word of God and the Spirit of God are the glue that holds The Church together.

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