The Bible is filled with images, and those images are filled with meaning and beauty. But what happens when a biblical image may not have the same meaning today?
For example, consider the image of God's people as sheep — livestock. As a metaphor for the people in the pews.
“Hey, Kinnon." you say. "It’s biblical.”
Indeed, madam. You are correct! Sheep as a metaphor for God’s people is, in fact, to be found in the Scriptures.
Sheep were highly valued. Then.
Think of Jesus’ story of the one lost sheep, and the shepherd who left the 99 to search for that one.
I would suggest we view sheep as having much less value today — if we view them at all.
And what of the shepherds? Well, then they were were possibly the lowest of the gainfully employed. (Think of Jesse not even considering having his youngest son, David, the shepherd, later to be consecrated by Samuel.) Shepherds lived with their sheep. They smelled like their sheep. They knew each one by name. A single shepherd tended no more than 100 sheep in New Testament times.
Today, returning to the church livestock metaphor, a shepherd (or pastor, in its Latinate form) with only 100 sheep would be considered a failure. And how could any “successful” shepherd be expected to know all of “his/her” sheep.
Might I suggest the metaphor breaks down in its present usage within the church. And that this misused/misunderstood metaphor is responsible for much damaging separation between those who call themselves shepherds and “their” sheep — as if the shepherds are their owners. (Sheep cannot be stolen — except from their owners.)
Might I further suggest that the use of the phrase “sheep-stealing” is particularly bizarre amongst those who call us to be missionally-minded.
The reality is that we are all sheep. Or none of us are. (Shall we save the goats for another conversation?)
Related Preaching Articles
By Eric Mckiddie on May 30, 2017
How you get your sermon started matters. It can be the difference between someone being on the edge of their seat or slumped in their seat. Here are ten common mistakes that make for a less than optimal introduction to your sermon.
By Brandon Kelley on May 10, 2017
A Step-by-Step Approach to Efficient Sermon Preparation
By Karl Vaters on May 10, 2017
When your message is off-center, the quality matters even more.
By Brian Croft on May 5, 2017
There are all kinds of different sermons a preacher can preach, but the most helpful for a pastor to feed his people with week after week is expository sermons.
By Joe Hoagland on Apr 22, 2017
What if I told you there is one main thing you can improve to make people want to come back time and time again.