By Dean Marini
Following Jesus: What kind of sheep are you?
In John chapter 10 Jesus calls himself the good shepherd who not only loves his sheep but lays down his life for them. Christ uses this metaphor to describe the relationship between himself and his followers. That relationship extends to Pastors who are called to shepherd their flocks and lead them in their walk with God. We all want to have a good shepherd, but my question to you is; what type of sheep are you?
The Needy Sheep: Sheep have needs, it’s the nature of the relationship and yes we have the right to look to our shepherd for provision. Needy sheep go beyond the expectation of basic provision and demand constant attention. They confuse need with want and are constantly at the shepherd’s feet or pastor’s door clamoring to be attended to. Needy sheep may have an inflated opinion of their importance that not only makes them demanding, it justifies in their mind the fact that they should be catered to. Sadly some needy sheep suffer from underdeveloped faith that keeps them requiring constant care and reassurance, others just want attention they may not be getting in other relationships in their lives. By spending time in prayer and the study of God’s word we mature and grow in our faith. We become stronger so our pastors can lead us rather than carry us. We develop the faith David had when he said “ The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
The Bleating Sheep: These are the sheep many shepherds fear the most. They are the ones who gossip, criticize, chastise, speak with a judgmental spirit or talk over anyone else’s opinion. They are often the first and most vocal critics of leadership and yet the least willing to take an active role in the work. Proverbs 15:4 tells us; the soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. In many churches these bleating sheep not only crush spirits they can ruin lives, break up relationships and destroy ministries. All of us would be wise to follow the words of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians found in verse 4:29; Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
The Wandering Sheep: Sheep by nature can be easily distracted; they also have the habit of following another sheep even if it’s straying from the herd. They lose sight of the fact that there is safety in numbers and it’s harder to become a victim of prey when they’re with others, under the watchful eye of the shepherd. We can allow the situations in our life, good or bad, to draw us away from corporate worship. We fill our lives with activities and interests that the enemy can use to separate us from church. It doesn’t take very long to fall into the habit of skipping church. While many may argue that church attendance isn’t required to be a Christian, I’d counter by asking how long your phone is useful if you stop charging it. Wandering sheep also come in the church jumping variety. They follow their friends or the trends and make their church selections not with God’s leading, but based on their own interests and desires. The decision on where we attend should be as much a matter of prayer as every other part of our walk with God. The Bible tells us not to forsake gathering together because that’s the best way to be protected from the enemy.
The Good Sheep: Jesus wants his love and teaching to transform us in all that we do. We are called to model Christ and be imitators of him. That’s not because he wants to be flattered or idolized, but because he knows what is required for a truly abundant life. He longs for each of us to fully produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control. When those characteristics are at work in our spiritual lives we become not just good sheep but contributing members of the flock. Our faith grows strong enabling us to love one another deeply, so rather than being needy or wanting, we give to others and look to help them. We speak lovingly, kindly, considerately with encouragement and truth. We speak well of our leaders and one another, uplifting people with our words rather than tearing them down. Good sheep respond to the love of the shepherd and fellowship of the flock by seeking a closer relationship that’s mutual supporting and beneficial to the each member. Good sheep don’t wander; instead they hold fast to the words of Peter recorded in John 6:68 when he said to Jesus, “”Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”