A few pastor friends and I are working on a book dealing with the challenges of pastoring smaller churches. In preparation for one of the chapters that I am writing, I came across an interesting online article titled “Protection Dogs are Sheep’s Best Friend,” that dealt with the return of wolves into Switzerland. The article stated,
After a century of being extinct in Switzerland, wolves are back. Thanks to strict wildlife protection measures, their numbers have increased and spread to the Swiss Alps-but now they’re attacking flocks of sheep. Wolves have attacked flocks of sheep in the cantons of Valais and Bern, sometimes killing up to 30 sheep at a time.
The first sentence of the article really struck me as it noted that “wolves are back.” If one looks at the history of local churches that have a reputation for splits, disunity, and running off godly saints and leaders, you can almost always trace the problem back to a pack of wolves that emerge from within the church and cause misery and heartache for the cause of Christ and his glorious bride, the church. When wolves are allowed to lurk in a local church, the results are devastating upon the flock. The New Testament is very precise when it chose the term wolves to describe the enemies of the local church. Wolves are clever little carnivores. They wait patiently until they sense a weakness or vulnerability, then they pounce on the unsuspecting. They are nasty, mean, harsh, and relentless. The article goes on to note the hardship that wolves cause the shepherd. One Swiss shepherd notes,
One wolf can do a lot of damage. There was one occasion in the canton of Valais where a wolf killed about thirty sheep in one night. If you can prove that the sheep was killed by a wolf, all damages are paid by the government. But I think it’s an emotional problem…it hurts the shepherd to see his sheep decapitated, and this causes shepherds to start hating the wolf.
The teaching of the New Testament is clear that we are not to coddle such men. Instead, we are to expose them for the devastating impact they have on a church. Paul’s words to the shepherds of the church at Ephesus in Acts 20:28-30 are as timely today as when he wrote them 2000 years ago:
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
May God help us to protect his sheep.