The Sheep

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." John 10:27

The Swahili language is a trade language in East Africa. It is a conglomeration of hundreds of tribal dialects, Arabic, Portuguese, English and a host of other linguistic influences. As a result, it is not as poetic as Greek, or as descriptive as Hebrew, but it has a pragmatic, versatility that still communicates the big picture.

The word used for pastor in Swahili is the same word used for cowboy or shepherd boy. Herding unruly sheep and serving as a pastor of a church have at least one thing in common. Both require the constant use of a voice that the sheep can hear, identify with and follow. In a land of free grazing and no branding irons, a shepherd's voice and his sheep's response to it are the signs of ownership.

In East Africa, claiming sheep that don't respond to his voice can get a shepherd in hot water. When pastors claim sheep that don't respond to The Shepherd's voice, their church will be in hot water too.

Dr. Oscar Thompson was my Professor of Evangelism at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1978 he gave me a great definition of a Christ follower or disciple of Jesus, It was the finest I had ever heard. It hasn't been improved upon since the first day I heard it.

A disciple is at the very heart of the meaning of the word, a follower. Therefore...

1. A Disciple is someone who has a personal relationship with their teacher.

2. A Disciple is someone who allows their teacher to exercise authority or jurisdiction over their life.

3. A Disciple is someone who is willing to face persecution for what they believe.

Thanks Dr. Thompson. Before you went to Heaven, you did a lot of good. May those who heard your voice be faithful to repeat what you said. The church needs disciples that reflect this kind of relationship with Jesus.

William Barclay was once asked if a particular person was one of his students. The professor responded, "No, he only attends my classes."

These two professors did not share much in common theologically, but they both give a clear picture of discipleship as something more than a pursuit of education or the passion for accumulation. Discipleship is marked by application.

Association with the teacher is more than attending a lecture. It is about applying what the teacher says. Sheep respond to the shepherd's voice and students receive what their teacher says. They take what they hear into the hearts, and not just into their heads. The former changes the way they live. The latter only changes their grade.

Ongoing wars between theological camps exist because of the pride people place in themselves, as the final authority. One camp prides themselves in knowing more. The other camp prides themselves in believing more. The argument goes something like this, "If you knew what I know, you wouldn't believe as much as you think you believe." The other camp responds with, "If you believed what I believe, then you wouldn't be so impressed with what you think you know."

One camp mocks what the other camp believes about how a person can come to Jesus and be made right with God. One leans on an exact point in time and a specific prayer. The other is not too clear when it happens, except that it is undeniable when it does. There is little agreement between them.

The simple picture of obedient sheep, as presented by Jesus, is a great help. His sheep follow Him. Those who say they are His sheep, but don't obey His voice are not His sheep. Pretty clear.

One camp needs to admit that after praying there must be obeying. Praying for Jesus to come into a person's heart should reveal a change of heart. Thompson's Rule describes a new sheriff is in town. Sheep once prone to wander should be primed to obey. They need to stop making excuses for deaf and blind sheep who make a mockery of The Shepherd's voice.

The other camp needs to stop slaying the praying. Mocking a person who prays to ask Jesus into their heart is a poor substitute for intercession. Praying for a person to make a genuine connection with Jesus is a much better response to their search for Him. Stow the sarcasm, and start the intercession. Where there is genuine passion for Jesus, there is a passion to pray like Him.

Jesus said His sheep hear Him and obey Him. Those who don't hear and obey Him are not His. The sheep in His flock will look and act like Him. Jesus prayed...A LOT! Have you prayed too much for the sheep lately? Yeah. Me neither.