Friday, December 7, 2007

Sheep Stealing 101

There’s a dirty little secret that pastors often talk about behind closed doors but usually never openly admit to. It’s called sheep stealing. This is when another pastor overtly tries to get someone from a different congregation to join theirs. It’s considered quite reprehensible and morally questionable. The funny thing is that it happens ALL the time.

Most church growth these days happens through what is called transfer growth. People who are Christians and have left another church for various reasons: disappointed, called out, frustrated, ignored, not fed, moved, got married, kicked out, bored...

Pastors don’t usually try to do a poor job. In fact, they go out of their way to devise ways of getting new people into their church. Better programs, better communication skills, better facilities, better youth groups, better mission, better care… All of this is considered good pastoring. Good business is never mentioned. With all these enticements it’s hard for the consumer (parishioner) to not leave one church to go to another from time to time. Maybe the grass is greener…

The secret of being a good sheep stealer is that you never directly approach a Christian from a different church. You let what you are doing speak for itself. I touched on this back in the spring from a different perspective titling it “the circulation of the saints.”

Pastors don’t generally advertise good stuff that is going on in other churches and they don’t recommend books that might give their members alternate views of the group’s (his) philosophy. After all his sheep might leave if they realize they are being limited in their personal growth and that is simply not good business. When someone leaves their congregation they are generally none too pleased and are sometimes a little miffed at the church that they went to. (unless of course that person was asking too many “why” questions.) However, they don’t generally get too unhappy about people leaving other churches to join their congregation.

In all of this a fundamental question of “whose sheep are they?” is never asked. Pastors really do believe that his congregation are his sheep. The truth is that Jesus is the good shepherd and we are His sheep. He hasn’t stopped building His church and no pastor should ever think that he has dibs on Jesus’ sheep.

Of course, pastors will vehemently deny that they own or control anyone. They are simply servants. Really! Just ask them how they feel when someone leaves them. If a church had 25 families in it and 10 decided to go to another pasture (church) at the same time, the pastor’s job performance and reputation would be held up to close scrutiny. But if he is the recipient of those 10 families and the offerings took a significant increase he would be seen as being incredibly gifted.

Churches that offer great “whatevers” are naturally doing them to glorify Jesus and better serve their membership. Sheep stealing is simply collateral damage.

5 comments:

Hanan Merrill said...

Just ask them how they feel when someone leaves them.


Amazing how simple questions can really blow off the smokescreens, eh? Or just get one upset who's unwilling to see beyond the smokescreen.

Todd said...

David,

So glad to see "so you don't want to go to church anymore?" on your links.....

Wayne's resources have wrecked me in a good way :)

nice points on your post....I do believe remembering that folks/people are Jesus' sheep and that he's very good at building his church is of paramount importance eh?

peace and good,

Todd

David Grant said...

When I was a professional pastor I never saw through my own smokescreens. Even after leaving I continued to think of ways of getting back into the trade and doing it better.

Somehow, Father kept me from my own addiction and I so thankful for it.

Thankfully the internet is allowing grace to be given to those in pursuit of something other than systems. Years ago people were simply marginalized until they got back with the program.

My writing is more in line with "a time to tear down". I feel at peace in writing this way at this time but I do like the grace that seems to pour out of Wayne's site.

It really isn't about what we have left but whose we are.

Hanan Merrill said...

""David Grant said...

When I was a professional pastor I never saw through my own smokescreens. Even after leaving I continued to think of ways of getting back into the trade and doing it better.

Somehow, Father kept me from my own addiction and I so thankful for it.""

I still am in the role of professional pastor and struggling with how to view it. I have both a desire to simply trust what God's doing and follow that AND a desire to do something great. I don't know if the latter is just my humanity or if it's God nurturing a desire He's put in me?

What church/denomination were you pastoring, for how long, and how long have you been out?

David Grant said...

http://davidagrant.blogspot.com/2007/04/god-told-me.html

This link is a bit of the story of my getting into ministry. I was in a Canadian denomination called the PAOC. (pentecostal) I've been out since 2000 but only in the past year have I come to see that organized religion is not reflective of the Kingdom of God.

Doing something "great" (I'm assuming you mean large) in my opinion is likely one of the great seducers within vocational pastoring. Kill it or you will kill others with it as a goal.

You'd have to read some of my other posts to fully understand what I mean by this. They won't be very comfortable for you but at least you will have looked at it more carefully than I was allowed to.

My friends who are still in the system tell me to stop wasting my time with this way of thinking. If you want to fix something do it from the inside is their answer to me.

My heart's desire has never been to be at the forefront of anything but to see Ephesians 4:11-13 lived out. I now see the professional components that church systems need in order to survive as actually hindering that equipping.