In January of 2018, my wife and I moved to a new city to embark on my first pastorate. We live in a parsonage that is about a mile away from the church. This is nice, given that we were straight out of seminary. But it also has its drawbacks, as many can attest to who are in the ministry. When we first arrived, we soon noticed that the mailbox was not very secure on its pole. Soon after, I decided I would try to fix it. As I was doing so, a few dogs came running up the road and barking at me. Not a big deal. I yelled at them and scared them away. They turned around and ran. After a very brief amount of time, they soon returned, but this time, they had about five more dogs with them, most of which were large dogs. At that point, I realized this was not a good situation. Armed with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, I started backing up my lengthy driveway. I was yelling at them to get away, but the more I yelled and backed up, the more they surrounded me and barked at me and showed me their teeth. Fortunately, this story ends well. I was freed from this situation when my wife came running outside yelling at them, which forced them to run away. The point is, they were not subtle in their approach. Their intentions were obvious.
When it comes to the dogs—or better yet, wolves—that pastors/preachers will have to deal with, the most concerning ones are not the ones of the aforementioned kind. There are certainly wolves out in the world that are very open about their opposition to the truth of God’s Word. These are easily identified. Instead, it is the subtle ones that bring concern. It is the wolves in sheep’s clothing that preachers need to be concerned about. The problem with these wolves is, they don’t look dangerous, yet their bite is deadly. Because of this, preachers need to be prepared to protect the flock from these wolves.
The first way of protecting the flock is by preaching sound doctrine. The apostle Paul made this very clear in the Pastoral Epistles. In 2 Timothy 2, Paul talks about how in the last days, men will be “lovers of themselves” among other evil things. He says in verse 13, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Since we are living in the last days, this is true right now. Men are certainly evil. Deceptive people are out in the world looking for any opportunity to pounce on the weak. However, Paul says in verse 14, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.” Paul is directing his comments to Timothy. However, from Paul’s words to Timothy, we can understand that the best way to avoid the deception of wolves, or false teachers, is to continue in the things which we have learned. To continue in the Word of God. This is what we and our people need to do. Thus, it is crucial that we continue to preach and teach sound doctrine. The more we stay focused on the truth and rooted in the truth, the easier it will be to protect the flock and easier for the flock to be prepared when attacks come. Men, preach sound doctrine!
The second way to protect the flock is through prayer. This seems simplistic, but let’s be honest, what does your prayer life look like in relation to your people? Are you praying for them? Are you praying for their spiritual wellbeing? Are you praying for them to stay rooted in the Word of God? If you aren’t, how do you expect them to be ready when a wolf in sheep’s clothing shows up? The greatest protection we can offer the people is not ourselves, but the divine hand of God. And our greatest access to His protection is prayer. Men, pray!
The third way to protect the flock is through good discipleship. Disciple individuals one-on-one. Create discipleship programs that foster healthy discussion and spiritual growth. Train up godly men and women who can teach other men and women to walk in the ways of the Lord. Don’t expect that your sermon is going to accomplish everything. The pastor’s job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry (see Eph. 4:12). Discipleship is crucial. The preacher’s job does not end when the sermon is complete. The preacher’s job is one of consistent teaching, which takes place in all contexts. Men, make disciples!
Finally, let me add one more to this list. Do all you can to keep your flock from isolating themselves. When wolves hunt sheep, they are not so concerned with the whole flock, they only want one. And if they can find one that has isolated itself, their task has become even easier. All they need to do is to get their claws on one, perhaps a lamb, and their hunt is a success. Isolation in the church family should be avoided. The church is to be a community. When individual members start isolating themselves and become unproductive or uninvolved, wolves will take notice. As a good under-shepherd, pull them back into the fold. Do all you can to help them avoid straying away. Men, protect your flock!
Preach the Word. Pray for your flock. Make disciples. Protect your flock from isolation. We could add many other ways that we can keep wolves away. But if you will start with these four areas, you will be well on your way to creating a church culture that recognizes wolves and does all it can to keep wolves from harming the flock. You are their leader. They are looking to you to protect them. Men, lead well!
Todd Tucker is the Pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Silsbee, Texas.