When we had our Christian School at the church I pastored, each Wednesday morning was chapel, and I did a series from Institute for Basic Youth Conflict called Character Sketches which used a character from the Bible and an animal from nature that both illustrated such things as loyalty, faithfulness, perseverance, ingenuity, etc. Recently a local dentist who attended our Christian school asked me if he could borrow the series to share with his children. He said, that the chapel sessions, and the animal sketches in particular, really stand out in his memory and he wants to pass on the lessons to his own family. I, too, often think back to some of those lessons and frequently share them, either in a Bible study or “Wisdom of the Week” devotional.
Character Sketches from IBYC wasn’t the first to use God’s creation to teach biblical principles. Scripture has many references to lessons we can learn from God’s fascinating animal world. In Job’s reply to one of his supposed comforters, he said, “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you” (Job. 12:7). Solomon, in his “book of wisdom,” wrote: “Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest” (Pr. 6:6-8).
One lesson we learned during our chapel studies was from the crow and spoke of the important role of the “sentry” crow who was the lookout while the others were feeding. If the sentry failed to give a warning of danger, it could cost the lives of some of the flock. The role was to be taken very seriously because if a crow failed to protect the flock the other crows would kill it. You have probably observed a flock of geese feeding in a field (or along the freeway or on a golf course in the green grass). If you will notice, there is always one of the flock that is not feeding but is constantly looking around for any danger, ready to warn the flock. We have lots of wild turkeys in our area and they wander through our place probably at least once a week. I noticed this past week as they were feeding in our little orchard that one of them was standing guard just as with the crows and Canada geese.
Then this past Sunday at church our pastor spoke of the responsibility of a pastor to guard the flock (the local assembly of believers) from predators (false teachers). In Matthew 7:15 we have Jesus’ warning: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” When the Apostle Paul met with the elders from the church in Ephesus, he too warned them, saying: “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” (Acts. 20:28-30). Each of us has a responsibility to be in God’s Word in order to be able to detect false teaching when it arises, but pastors and elders, as shepherds of the flock, have a special role to play—like the sentries for the flock of crows or geese or turkeys—to guard the flock, to warn of dangerous teaching and movements that could lead them astray.
Paul left his understudy Timothy to pastor the flock in Ephesus and wrote to him encouraging him to “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (II Tim. 1:13,14). Similarly when Paul visited the island of Crete, he left Titus there to shepherd those churches. He then wrote to him encouraging him to appoint elders in every city and gave the qualifications he should look for, for these leaders would have to deal with many false teachers who would attempt to distract the believers into following them. He told Titus that these deceivers and false teachers “must be silenced…because they (will be) upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain” (Tit. 1:10-12).
October is “Pastor Appreciation Month,” a time to tell and show your pastor how much you appreciate him and his faithful teaching and care for the flock, especially for his willingness to be on constant “guard duty” for the flock to protect it from all the predators, especially from the “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Having pastored a church for many years, I fully understand the pressures and discouragements and temptations that face a pastor as he serves as guardian of the flock. Pray much for your pastor and let him know often—not just in October—how much you appreciate him and his wife. They have one of the most difficult, demanding, jobs in the world.