Are you an under shepherd or a hireling?
by Sandy Simpson, 5/6/10
The Bible lays out the definitions of both an overseer (under shepherd) and a hireling.
John 10:11-13 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. (KJV)A hireling does not really care about being a watchman, but is more concerned with protecting his reputation, position and income. A true watchman will guard the flock against wolves from within (Acts 20:30) and without (Acts 20:29) no matter the cost to his reputation, position or income.
1 Tim. 3:1-3 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (NIV)
Titus 1:7-13 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith. (NIV)
Following is a little quiz you can take to see if you are a true Biblical under shepherd as a leader in your church, are becoming a hireling, or are one now.
A person in your congregation begins to hand out books and materials to others in your church from a known false apostle, false teacher or false prophet. What do you do in response?
(a) You assume that this is just an isolated incident that will not have any real effect on your congregation and will soon fade away. Part of the reason you do this is that you do not want to alienate and lose this person from your congregation.
(b) You address the false teachings in general through exegetical Bible teaching. You say nothing specific about the false teacher whose materials have been circulated.
(c) You confront the person who has been handing out the materials personally, asking them to stop proselytizing in your church, carefully explaining the false nature of the teachings of those he or she are promoting by name. You also publicly address the the false teachings and false teachers by name to your congregation.
(a) False teaching doesn't just fade away but it becomes leaven and will only grow in your church (1 Cor.5:6, Gal. 5:9). Concern for leaven should outweigh the possibility that person will be offended and leave.
(b) It is not enough to simply address false teachings in general. This is because many Christians have not been trained in discernment to the point where they can make the connection between false teachings and the false teachers who teach them. The apostles and prophets warned about false prophets and teachers by name: (Leviticus 10:1-2, Numbers Chapter 16, 1 Kings 22:11, 24-25, Jeremiah 28:15-17, Jeremiah 29:31-32, Ezekiel 8:8-11, Ezekiel 11:1-13, 1 Timothy 1:19-20, 2 Timothy 4:14, 3 John 9-10, Revelation 2:20, 1 Corinthians 4:18 and all of chapter 5, Revelation 2:14-15, etc.).
(c) The Biblical response is to rebuke a person privately who is introducing false teaching into a church so that they may be sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). Then the false teachings and false teachers need to be addressed before the whole congregation publicly, just as the false teachers are teaching false teachings publicly.
A Christian running for public office who attends another church is invited to your church to get people to vote for him/her. You are not in church that Sunday. In speaking to the church that person promotes Dominionist teachings and a false prophecy upholding those principles. What is your response?
(a) You hear about the incident from a number of people in your church but do not make a public response because you are afraid to offend the Christian politician and their church, even though their church promotes Latter Rain and Dominionist teachers and teachings.
(b) You hear about the incident from a number of people in your church but you elect to let the issue die out rather than address it specifically. In private you say what was said was wrong, but in public you say nothing.
(c) The next Sunday you get up and state clearly that Dominionism and false prophecy are wrong and why. You admit that it was not a good idea to invite a person from a church that teaches false doctrines.
(a) Those who are afraid to challenge false teachings from a church or denomination that teaches them are hirelings who do not regard the safety of the sheep as a top priority above ecumenical unity. True under shepherds will warn people to stay away from them.
Ro 16:17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.(b) It is not enough to address public false teaching privately. What is done in private needs to be addressed in private, but what is done in public must be responded to in public (Acts 18:28, 1 Tim. 5:20).
Another pastor in your denomination in your city decides to help promote a united prayer effort together with false teachers and Catholics. He is seen standing together with them and your denomination is promoted on the advertisements as being involved. What do you, as another pastor in this denomination, do?
(a) You do not address the situation at all because you don't want to have any division among your fellow pastors.
(b) You privately do not like what this pastor did but you assume it will fade away and people will not remember what he did in a few months.
(c) You contact and challenge the other pastor telling him why he should not be in unity with false teachers and Catholics. If he does not agree and withdraws his support you tell him to be sure to put a notice on the advertisements that this is a personal decision on his part which does not reflect the views of the whole denomination.
(a) This is the typical response of a hireling who is more interested in keeping the peace among the other hirelings than being a watchman by example (1 Pet.5:8, Tit. 2:7).
(b) This is a lame response because even if this incident fades from memory, it will surely crop back up and likely become even more of an issue. Pretty soon everyone in your denomination will be invited to participate and since you did not stand against it you will be blackballed if you do not.
(c) If this happened in my denomination I would get up the next morning and put in a call to that pastor telling him not to lead the public and people from unbiblical and heretical churches to assume our denomination is involved in this unbiblical prayer effort. I would rebuke him sharply and if he shuns my friendship because of it, even if he is my mentor, then at least I have stood for the truth and my reward is with the Lord. Any disunity caused by the unbiblical actions of another pastor is not my fault, it is theirs and I would make that plain to them.
An indigenous Christian group comes to your church to promote unity and prayer for indigenous people groups. During their presentation they worship "God" by another name, the name of one of their cultural gods. They say they are worshipping the same God as the God of the Bible.
(a) "All supreme beings are the same as the God of the Bible."
(b) You don't really like it but you let it pass without comment.
(c) You get up either in the meeting if you are there, or the next meeting and clearly denounce the worship of a false god in your assembly, praying for God to rid the place of demonic influence and that those who presented these ideas will be led to the real YHWH and His Son, Jesus Christ.
(a) The Bible is clear on many occasions that the gods of the nations are not the same as the "I Am" of the Bible. Jews were roundly denounced for worshipping Baal, for instance, even though they claimed to be worshipping YHWH by doing so. Baal (husband) was not the true "husband" of Israel but an adulterous love and Israel was denounced and judged with severe judgment for naming the name of a foreign god in the assembly of God's chosen people. It can be no less today.
(b) Again, when you let this kind of thing pass you are disobeying the Lord and not standing for the truth. Those who love the Lord prove they love Him by following Him and His Word.
(c) This kind of thing is incredibly dangerous. If allowed to continue God's flock under your care could end up dealing with demonic oppression because another "god", who is really no god at all, has been given free access to your church. Use this occasion to teach how important the name of God is.
Article to read:
IPM False Teaching About The Names Of God by Sandy Simpson, 6/24/06
A certain person in your church begins to dance around wildly during worship, or bowing uncontrollably, or falling down, or laughing during the sermon, or twirling around continuously, or some other such behavior that shows a lack of self-control in the congregation of the saints.
(a) "They are just worshipping the Lord. Leave them alone."
(b) I am not crazy about that kind of thing but as long as it's not hurting anyone we need do nothing about it.
(c) You have your deacons escort the person out the back and talk to him/her about their behavior. If they are unwilling to stop they are told not to come back. If they want to talk about it explain to them how true believers behave (1 Cor. 14:33).
(a) It is not worship to disobey the precept of everything in order, not in disorder and disobeying the Spirit by not practicing self-control. This kind of behavior is an attempt to get people to "jump in the river" of Third Wave Gnosticism, to get people to join them in their debauchery under the guise that it is a superior form of worship. It is not.
(b) When you do nothing what happens is a few weeks later there are two people doing it. Later more people are doing it and finally everyone is doing it.
(c) The correct response is to nip those kinds of behaviors in the bud before the spread and infect your whole church. You clearly understand that there is an agenda of the enemy behind it to cause division and heartache in your church.
One of your associate pastors goes to a conference and comes back with a whole new agenda. He is all fired up about it and you admire his zeal but then he starts talking about the new things he has learned. He is now recommending false teachers like Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren and others. He continually tries to get you and the other staff of your church to read books by these people, go to their conferences and use their materials.
(a) Since your associate pastor is a friend and he is very zealous about the new things he has learned, you go along with him and begin to allow him to introduce new ideas to the whole church.
(b) You become aware that some of the things he has brought back with him are not good, but you figure his enthusiasm will wane in time, so even though you don't allow him to teach his new ideas you read the books and allow him to promote his ideas to others.
(c) You stop him cold by demolishing arguments. You visit some discernment web sites and get written articles to give to him proving those he is promoting are blatant false teachers. You tell him in no uncertain terms that he will not be allowed to continue at your church unless he states and demonstrates an understanding that what he bought into is false teaching.
(a) It is not being a friend to allow a friend to continue in serious error, particularly if they are a Christian leader. Just because an idea is being presented as new and cutting edge does not necessarily make it so, in fact it is often an old error brought forward to the present. There is nothing really new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). Many aspects of the Emergent Church movement contain old heresies, unbiblical Catholic mysticism, Gnosticism, eastern mysticism, and classic liberalism.
(b) If there is heresy being taught by a false teacher it is not ok to "eat the meat and spit out the bones". If you eat a fish, bones and all, you will likely choke on a bone and and get hurt or possible even die. If there is one heresy in their teaching it shows that it is all tainted. We are told to get away from false prophets and false teachers, not filter out the "good" from the bad (1 Thes. 5:22, Rom. 16:17). Don't be fooled into thinking that the enthusiasm a person has about new Emergent Church teachings will fade away. If they keep being influenced by the books and seminars they attend, it will only grow stronger and they will step up their efforts to get you and anyone else involved.
(c) It is always best to nip heresy in the bud. It is a lot easier to deal with it in its infancy than when it matures into and uncontrollable monster. It is the height of love to show someone their error (James 5:20). Help him by demanding that he read reviews with objections to the books and teaching he has newly subscribed to. Stand up for the truth and be a watchman for your congregation and the Lord will bless you and him if he turns and repents.
A man comes to your church and invites all the leadership to a revival meeting. He tells you that it is a true revival from the Lord and nothing weird is going on. When you attend you find out they are doing slain in the spirit and you and the others participate. In the coming days one of the pastors raises his concerns with you as head pastor and your associates by writing an article and showing a video in your leadership meeting.
(a) As head pastor you get angry because the issue is being brought up. You write an article denouncing the article by the person who has concerns. You tell him to either get in unity with everyone who participated in the event or leave the church.
(b) You listen to all concerns but you do nothing about them. You figure that people will just work out the issues on their own.
(c) You commend the person for raising objections and fully investigate what was done and said at the event. You then address the issue privately with your associates and publicly before the church in messages about the dangers of the Third Wave.
(a) Since you jumped in the river with everyone else it is very hard for you to see what is wrong with the situation. Even if you have some concerns yourself it is easier to demonize the person who spoke out rather than address concerns. This is not being a watchman for your church and friends.
(b) Sticking your head in the sand on important issues will not make them go away. Your failure to address false teaching and unbiblical practices leaves the door wide open for more unsuspecting people to be sucked into heresy.
(c) When there are serious doctrinal and practice issues they must be addressed. If they are private they must be addressed privately. If they are public they must be refuted publicly.
A national Christian organization schedules a conference in your mega church facility. Later you find out that there will be a few false teachers teaching at that conference. What do you do?
(a) You ignore those who are warning about the false teachers and vilify them. When invited to be a speaker yourself you agree.
(b) You send out press releases to discernment ministries claiming the false teachers will no longer be speaking in your church facility, but you are simply trying to get people off your back when the false teachers are still scheduled to speak.
(c) You read the materials and critiques sent to you, see the problem, contact those who are putting on the event and tell them that those speakers are not welcome in your church and that this will be the last of their conferences to be scheduled at your church. You also do not allow materials by those teachers to be sold in your facility.
(a) True believers should never share the platform or schmooze with false brethren and wolves. As a watchman you must not allow false teachers open access to your church people, and allowing them in your church facility is sure to give them access to a number of them.
(b) Sending out lying press releases in order to silence critics is foolish. They will find out that you lied to them and there will be consequences. This action is really not better than being honest about your support for certain false teachers. You are just hiding that fact.
(c) This is the correct response of an under shepherd. As a Christian you stand for truth, not lies. You stand for sound doctrine, not false doctrine. People may not be friendly to you if you reject certain teachers, but then whose friendship are your courting? A good pastor is not courting the friendship of false brethren and the world but that of the Lord.
Your worship leader goes to a worship conference and brings back some new music. The music is very catchy but some songs have some doctrinal problems. What do you do about it?
(a) Your attitude is that the worship leader is mature enough in the Lord to pick good music for the church.
(b) You find some of the lyrics objectionable but you don't want to hurt the worship leader's feelings or break his zeal.
(c) You call a meeting of the elders and discuss the doctrinal issues in the new songs that are objectionable. You then ask the worship leader not to use those songs in your church even if he likes them and the people like singing them. You give a message or two on teaching sound doctrine, not just in the preaching but in the Bible studies, Sunday school, music and every other aspect of your church.
(a) The elders and pastor of the church are responsible to make sure people are being taught sound doctrine in every way. You need to realize that there are many new (and old) "Christian" songs out there that promote Dominionism, a pantheistic or panentheistic view of God, prosperity doctrines, positive thinking, Latter Rain false doctrines, etc.
(b) It is better to hurt someone's feelings than allow music to brainwash people in your church with false doctrines.
(c) This is the right call. This is not to say that after discussion a song that seems objectionable is seen in a certain light is fine. But if that is the case it should be explained to the church your view of the song and how you are singing it, and that you will not be subscribing to the viewpoint of the author or performer necessarily.
Articles to read:
Testing Music in the Church by Sandy Simpson
Testing Music in the Church Part 2 by Sandy Simpson
A member of your church comes to you with concerns over what they perceive as false teaching by you or one of you associate pastors. They present you with a Biblical argument with supporting Scripture references. What is your response?
(a) You get angry with them for questioning your authority and call them names like "heresy hunter" or "Pharisee". You tell them they need to listen to you and if they cause a problem they will be kicked out of the church.
(b) You listen politely to their arguments and tell them you will think about it, then you do nothing.
(c) You listen politely to their arguments and tell them your position. If you are shown to be in the right you compliment them for being a good Berean. If you are shown to be wrong you take action to reverse the false teaching, take it off your web site, take it out of your ministry curriculum, and address it if it is a really serious problem before the whole church.
(a) This, unfortunately, seems to be the typical response from a majority of pastors today. I have the emails to prove it. When presented with evidence that a church is going into apostasy over false teaching, many leaders in the churches, not being accountable to anyone as they have a top-down structure in place in their church, become heavy shepherds. They have fallen prey to the false notion that everyone is under their anointing. But they forget that it is God's flock (1 Pet. 5:2) and every believer there is under His anointing (1 John 2:27).
(b) This is like an ostrich putting its head in the sand so it won't be afraid about what is going on around it. The fact is that this type of person has no intention from the beginning of dealing with the issue because they are afraid to offend one of their pastors or staff.
(c) This is the correct response. Paul commended the Bereans for testing what he was teaching according to the written Word (Acts 17:11). You are not Paul. You are not a foundational apostle to the Church. Therefore your response should be the same: to welcome all questions, admit when you are wrong or do not know something, and be real with people instead of a stuck up holier-than-thou religionist.
If you answered even one (a) you are a hireling. You need to repent before the Lord and make amends to your congregation. Remember that if you, an under shepherd to God's flock, allow heresy and false teaching on your watch, your church will enter a downward spiral from which there may be no return. You may well have your candlestick removed as so many other churches, denominations and missions already have.
If you answered one or more (b) responses you are on your way to becoming a hireling. Better stop yourself in your tracks and make an about face. Don't continue down the road of compromise because the next step is apostasy.
If you answered ALL (c) then you are being a faithful watchman, a trustworthy overseer and a reliable under shepherd to God's flock. Keep up the good work. You may lose some people over it, but you will gain the respect of true believers and keep the house of the Lord in order.