Moses said to the Lord, “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him.
- Numbers 27:15-18
The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”
Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’”
The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?”
Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
“One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’
“‘By what means?’ the Lord asked.
“‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
“‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’
“So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”
- 1 Kings 22:16-23
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
- Mark 6:32-34
For the past two days, I have written, in a way, about a book that remains unnamed. An “expert” in social sciences and specializing in religion wrote about his idea of the path forward for Christianity, totally forgetting, the Bible, prayer, faith, and even Jesus. I fear that the church (many denominations and many individual churches) are straying from the faith. And could it be that the best place to get closer to God is away from the established “church?”
“I noted to [Paul] Copan that the title of [Dan] Kimball’s book sums up the attitude of many people today: They Like Jesus, but Not the Church. As the rock star Bono said, ‘I’m not often comfortable in church. It feels pious and so unlike the Christ that I read about in the Scriptures.’
“’Consequently,’ I said, ‘spirituality is very individualistic for a lot of people. They say they can worship God better while walking alone in the woods than in church. Can a Christian be divorced from Christian community?’
“’I’m not sure Bono’s concern about the church is a totally new phenomenon,’ Copan replied. ‘Even in the early Christian communities, you would have probably felt some discomfort.’
“’In what way?’
“’If you were to visit the church in first-century Corinth, for example, you’d find division, spiritual arrogance, putting up with immorality in their midst, and a class-conscious mind-set. The apostle Paul wrote them to point out all these problems – but does he give up on them? No, Paul was writing to say, “Get back on track.” He deals with them as a loving father would.’”
- Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus
In a television program with a moderator and four other pastors discussing issues, the question was asked if NOT going to church was a sin. Of course, with the COVID restrictions, some people do not have that choice, unable to attend; others are given the choice but could be afraid of the virus spreading. The pastor who first fielded the question talked about a half-dozen verses in the Bible where the Bible mentions sheep without a shepherd. The Scriptures above are three of those six, and the one in 2 Chronicles is a repeat of the 1 Kings Scripture above, so five different references, but there are other instances where the concept is mentioned without the words being in the same verse.
And that 1 Kings Scripture is very telling, and it is at the root of the modern issue for many people, and if Paul Copan, PhD, is correct (probably), it has always been an issue. There are a lot of pastors who stray from biblical Truth, and a lot of congregations that live as they please, regardless of the message being given or what others think of them. Are the unbiblical preachers like King Ahab’s cronies who told King Ahab what he wanted to hear so that he could say that God had ordained his evil schemes? Maybe not that despicable, but they could lead people astray. Both of my sons were adversely affected by a liberal pastor. Our younger son accepted Jesus years later, but I wonder if some of the words spoken years before filter into his thinking. Yet, for many years, he refused to pray because he might pray wrong. And as I kept trying to tell him, it was failing to pray at all that was the wrong way of praying.
So, without a shepherd, the sheep can wander and get lost easily, but without a good shepherd, they might wander into a trap.
Without a great deal of prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit, we might all fall into traps.
And remember that there is no perfect church here on earth. The perfect church is the body of true believers, and we will be one big happy family in Heaven.
We must rely on Christ alone, but sometimes, just for a boost of energy, we need other Christians nearby. God reassured Elijah that there were those who had not bowed a knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). The Apostle Paul went on his missionary journeys with others: first Barnabas and for a time John Mark, then Silas, Timothy, Luke, and Aquilla and Priscilla as they were added and left behind and more.
But as with yesterday’s discussion of Jesus’ moral teaching, finding the right church is not that easy of an answer. The denomination, or lack thereof, must be considered. The style of worship must be something that allows the Holy Spirit to move within you and your personal preferences. The Bible needs to be proclaimed, and God glorified, worshiped, and praised. And there must be some true believers that can help you on your journey and that must be reciprocal.
Ouch! That is pretty hard to find, but we must keep looking, remembering that some of those requirements can be accomplished within our own mindset even if the environment is not ideal. I have gotten ideas from bad sermons, but I would never suggest a steady diet. Yet, I have felt the Holy Spirit working within me in a few different worship styles, although I prefer a traditional style.
And if you stay in your present church family (one that may be far from ideal), maybe you can be the Paul who pleads for them to get back on track. We either need the father figure in our life or the church needs someone to be that father figure for them (not necessarily using “father” as being gender specific).
How do you know when you have found the right place? Through a lot of prayer.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.