Dustin Wagley, Fraser Valley Baptist Church, Fraser, CO
As I began to prepare for this Sunday’s sermon on how our church in the Fraser Valley is to be like a flock of sheep, I realized how little I really knew about sheep. Sure, I had heard countless other pastors talk about how DUMB sheep are, but I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve even touched a sheep. Were these other pastors any different? Maybe everything I thought I knew about sheep had come from sermons of other pastors who had no REAL sheep experience either.
I thought to myself, I’ll go spend some time on a farm and talk to some farmers who raise sheep. Even better, I’ll spend some quality time with a real life shepherd and REALLY figure out what sheep are like—their grazing habits, their general disposition, their flocking tendencies. And then it hit me, I’m supposed to preach this sermon in 42 hours. So I did the next best thing. I opened Safari on my trusty laptop. With low expectations I set out to research what sheep are like from NON-pastoral sources.
All I’d heard from pastoral sources were about how DUMB sheep are.
“Sheep are so dumb, they’ll walk right off a cliff.”
“Sheep are so dumb, they can’t do anything on their own.”
I had used this information in other sermons. With a slight bit of pride, I had repeated these insulting pastoral quips regarding our white fluffy sleep aids. But were they true? I would soon find out.
One of the first sources I found was exactly what I was looking for—a real life shepherd, named Craig Rogers, talking about sheep, specifically their intelligence! He states,
Over the years I have often been told, generally by non-sheep people or someone with 10 or 20 sheep that are fed from buckets, how dumb sheep are. However, if you pay attention, you cannot help but be impressed by how smart they are to have survived domestication since 10,000 B.C. Although many think of their flocking instinct to be a sign of “dumbness,” it is in fact a community-based survival mechanism where they have learned that their strength is much greater in numbers and their comfort and survival is enhanced as a group rather than as an individual. You can only wonder in awe at the sustainability and intelligence of this creature.
Wow! Did you catch that? This real life shepherd connects the sustainability and intelligence of sheep with their flocking instinct!
I immediately began to connect the dots with our church family. In a culture today that generally mocks the idea of flocking as a sign of weakness and negative dependency, this truth stands in quiet defiance. The sustainability of our church is dependent on our ability to flock together! While our current culture holds individualism as one of her highest values, may we as the church offer something different—a flock to be a part of, a flock to join, a flock to participate in. Scripture is no stranger to passages that point us to the vitality of unity and togetherness in the Body of Christ.
So, maybe we lay off the sheep a little. Maybe they’re not so dumb. But they are weak and in need of each other and the shepherd. That sounds familiar. When was the last time I confessed my weakness and my great need—my need for a church family and my need for the Good Shepherd?
Jesus, may we clearly see our need for the flock and may we see your sufficiency as our Good Shepherd! Help us understand the vitality of flocking together as your Body, that the world might know us and in turn know You by the love and unity we display as Your flock!