FEEDING THE SHEEP OR ENTERTAINING THE GOATS?

After Christ’s resurrection, he met his followers on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. One morning he asked them if they had any fish. Peter told him that they had been out all night without success. When Jesus told them to cast the net on the other side of the boat, they hauled in a large number of fish.

Peter realized who it was on the shore and jumped overboard to swim to him. After eating breakfast, Jesus turned to Peter and asked, “Do you love me?” Each time when Peter said yes, Jesus told him to feed and tend his sheep. That is what a shepherd is to do.

At Pentecost when the church was born, Peter preached the first sermon. He explained to the crowd what was happening at Pentecost. Then he proceeded to talk about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. At the end of his presentation he pointed out, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). He squarely blamed them for crucifying Christ. They asked what they should do. Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (v. 38). He did not sugar coat the reality of their crime and their need. That is how you feed the flock. You give them the word of God even when it is unpleasant.

In the 1970’s, however, a shift began to take place. In an effort of make church “relevant,” pastors tried different techniques to get people to come in the doors. One pastor went so far as to do a survey where he asked people what kind of church they would want to attend. Using that information, he set out to build a church that unchurched people would attend. Rather than call them to repentance as Peter did, this built the church  on the principles and desires of unregenerate people. The goats started coming in to the churches and crowding out the sheep.

Churches began all kinds of activities to keep the goats coming in so that they could pay the bills. This is not new to our time. Charles Spurgeon recognized this trend more than a century ago. “An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it during the past few years. It has developed at an abnormal rate, even for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_cbaMBoDac).

Churches today go to great lengths to get people to come into their buildings trying to win them. They have contests and entertainment, concerts, clowns, drama, motivational speaking, life enhancement sermons, and entertainment evangelism where they discuss popular television programs from the sixties, but they are afraid to preach the gospel for fear of offending the goats. Spurgeon said, “Providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church.” Christ said to go into the world and preach the gospel, not to placate the goats so they will feel comfortable. Spurgeon commenting on the crowds leaving Jesus in John 6: “I do not hear him say, ‘Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow.’”

Using carnal means to attract people only attracts carnal people. Watch Paul Washer’s video. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6w3qZjp3jYU) Whatever you use to get people into your church, you will have to top next time to get them to come back. You will continually have to outdo yourself to keep entertaining the goats, because they are not coming for the right reasons. The church cannot compete with the world on the same level, because it lacks the financial resources that the entertainment world has, so we come off as a cheap imitation.

Pity the poor sheep of the church who languish and go without food as the pastor runs off trying to amuse the goats so they will come back. Sheep need feeding and tending, but many are starving spiritually. Pastors need to return to tend the flock that God gave them and quit trying to appease the goats who will only be separated from the sheep at the judgment. Remember Paul Washer’s words, “If you use carnal means to attract people, you will only attract carnal people.