Feed My Sheep
by Keith Giles
"We've never heard these things," he said sheepishly, adding quickly, "Before today, that is."
Everyone in the room quietly agreed with his sad confession. The facilitator's mouth dropped open in shock for a moment, and then closed silently as her eyes moved around the room.
I involuntarily clenched my teeth from the back row and nodded silently to myself. It was true. Thousands of people in churches across this nation are ignorant of the basic message of Jesus and the Gospel that he came and died to proclaim.
We were in our final session of the Non-Con and Jackie Pullinger, who had flown in from Hong Kong, by way of London, was sharing with all of us about the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus preached and how the call to care for the poor in our midst was woven into the very fabric of His message. Most of those in the room, just over 100 people from all over the United States, had never heard this message before.
In my mind I went back over my own Christian experience. Raised in the Church after my initial conversion experience at age 10 and eventually licensed and ordained as a minister of the Gospel at age 22, I myself had been largely ignorant of the Gospel that Jesus proclaimed and had no concept of His heart for the poor or how my love for others reflected my love for God.
After spending over thirty years as a pastor, teaching others the Scriptures, mostly regurgitating what I was fed to others, being careful to stay within the bounds of doctrine and acceptable religious language, my own epiphany had come with a shock that literally took days to recover from. Now, years later, at 41 years of age, I am like a new convert to my own faith. Learning for the first time what was there all along in the Bible I kept at my bedside table.
How can it be that we have become a nation, and a generation, of Christian Americans who have no idea what the Gospel is all about? How can it be possible that we can be good Christians and yet still not be familiar with the teachings of Jesus or the basic elements of his message?
Can you imagine a Muslim who knew nothing of the teachings of Muhammed? Or a Jew who wasn't familiar with the words of Moses? How then can we be a generation of Christians who are unfamiliar with the words and the teachings of Jesus?
If our pastors across this land are not preaching about Jesus, are not communicating the Gospel of the Kingdom as He did, then what are we preaching?
A quick flip through the television stations and you'll know. It's mostly about getting what God wants to bless you with. It's about giving your money to this person or that ministry so that God can adorn you with money and success and material wealth.
What shocks me the most is when I hear these televangelists take the words of Jesus and twist them completely around with a great big smile on their faces. "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible," Jesus said, as the Rich Young Ruler walked away from him, head down, ashamed of his inability to let go of his great wealth in order to take up his cross daily and follow Jesus.
"With man this is impossible," says the televangelist with the best-selling book and the largest church in America, "But with God all things are possible." He then proceeds to explain how this proves that God will grant your every wish for a new car, a better job, a larger bank account.
These words from Jesus are meant to give us hope that, with God's help, we can find the grace and power to let go of our material wealth in order to follow Him with our whole life. These words are not meant to express God's desire to load us up with even greater riches and material goods.
What are teaching today from our pulpits if we're not teaching people to follow Jesus or to study his teachings?
Our churches are full of people who are taught to know the right information, and to stand against evil (as defined by the pulpit), and to invite others to attend the weekly gathering. But are we taught to know the words of Jesus? Are we encouraged to daily place our actual lives in His hands? Are ever told that unless we daily die to ourselves and take up our cross we cannot follow Him? Are we familiar with the parables of Jesus or the Gospel of the Kingdom? Do we know that we can enter the Kingdom of God anytime we want? Do we know that God only wants our entire life to be surrendered to Him?
I can't tell you how many times I have heard pastors demand that their flock should feed themselves. "They have Bibles, don't they?", "They can study the Word of God for themselves," they say. But Jesus didn't say, "Teach my sheep to feed themselves" he said, "If you love me feed my lambs". That means it's our job to make sure the people in our pews (or on our couches) know the Gospel and understand the message of Jesus.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" - Jesus, from Matthew 28:19-20
A disciple is a follower of Jesus. Obedience is built into our marching orders.
More and more I am becoming convinced that to be a "Christian" in our culture today, and being a follower of Jesus, are not the same thing at all.
"Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in His great campaign of sabotage."