It is hard to imagine Paul weeping for years trying to get the saints to listen to his warnings about savage wolves. Like today, many people want to move on to a more positive message. However, when there are wolves roaming around causing strife and destruction the warning must continually go out. Acts 20:28-29 is so prophetic that it would seem as though the writer was penning the cover story for a current Christian magazine rather than the eternal word of God. Savage wolves have always dogged the church, but in modern times they seem to be a dime a dozen. So long as they are roaming around biting and consuming saints we have an obligation to sound the warning.
Right now, all over the world, there are Christians who have been spiritually and emotionally torn to pieces by “savage wolves.” These savage wolves may even speak in tongues and give words of prophecy; but out of the same mouth comes a blessing and a curse. They are charming and know when to smile and give accolades. All the while they transform into a savage wolf behind the scenes — roaming around destroying peoples’ character behind their back. Some spread information meant to cause division. This abusive slander is known as “railing” and we are not to keep company with these people. Some go as far as to threaten to use their influence to destroy peoples’ reputation behind the scenes or get other Christians to dislike or disassociate with them. If you know someone who does these things they are a “railer” (1 Cor. 5:11) and should be excommunicated as an agent of the enemy. God is not the author of confusion.
Many are victimized by the ruthlessness of these savages. Some of these dear victims were once faithful Christians within the churches; however, now they have been severely wounded and scattered. In fact, in the Western World, there is a demographic that most believers do not know exist –commonly called, “Out of Church” Christians. They live in places like New Zealand, Australia, England, and the United States. I have met these saints in my own home town.
If you are a member of a church where works such as attendance and tithing are the primary means of expressing Christian faith — it is likely you have never heard of “Out of Church Christians.” I met one for the first time in 2004. Prior to that I was made to believe that when people quit going to church, they had backslidden. I have now come to know that that is not necessarily the case. Many of these dear people keep their relationship with God up to date more than church attendees. They continue to pray, read their bible and love their neighbor as themselves. You would not know these people do not attend church unless the topic came up.
Out of Church Christians are often spoken of in derogatory terms. Some pastors like to make sport of these type of people. They lace their sermons with pithy sayings about church hopping and skipping services. They label these folks as cold and rebellious. However, I have found that this is generally not the case. Of the many Out of Church Christians I have met — most have been grossly misrepresented by these sermons. What the pastors often fail to tell us is that these people were wounded by “leaders” like themselves who behaved carnally at best and wolfish at worst.
Some were badly disillusioned by backroom politics and manipulation, and the results were devastating. Some discovered moral failures in the lives of leaders who condemned others for lesser crimes. Others were openly mistreated by pastors who referred to them in their sermons — rebuking them without mentioning their name. Most well-seasoned saints will shrug off such behavior as juvenal or misguided. Many pastors today would not have their positions if they had not been shown an incredible amount of mercy. However, over time these jabs bruise the people and they try to find some kind of relief.
In an environment such as this where a pastor is operating carnally or wolfishly all the people suffer terribly. When strife is being ministered the people are not edified. Some churches are in so much chaos that the people leave the meetings in worse shape than when they arrived. Nevertheless, they are pounded with messages about being “faithful to church” to make sure they come back the next time the doors are open. What happens? The next service makes a demand on their spiritual life rather than contributing to it. I have been in these type meetings. In fact, for years I have tried to find an accurate antonym for the word “edify.” In other words, if God designed the gathering of the saints to be an edifying experience — what are we to call it when they are torn down rather than built up?
Could this be happening because preachers are doing more plotting than praying? Instead of preparing are they politicking?
The Careless Shepherd
In W. Phillip Keller’s classic book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 we have a sobering account of how awful conditions can be for sheep who are in the care of a careless shepherd. He explains:
When all is said and done the welfare of any flock is entirely dependent upon the management afforded them by their owner. The tenant sheepman on the farm next to my first ranch was the most indifferent manager I had ever met. He was not concerned about the condition of his sheep. His land was neglected. He gave little or no time to his flock, letting them pretty well forage for themselves as best they could, both summer and winter. They fell prey to dogs, cougars and rustlers. Every year these poor creatures were forced to gnaw away at bare brown fields and impoverished pastures. Every winter there was a shortage of nourishing hay and wholesome grain to feed the hungry ewes. Shelter to safeguard and protect the suffering sheep from storms and blizzards was scanty and inadequate.
They had only polluted, muddy water to drink. There had been a lack of salt and other trace minerals needed to offset their sickly pastures. In their thin, weak and diseased condition these poor sheep were a pathetic sight. In my mind’s eye I can still see them standing at the fence, huddled sadly in little knots, staring wistfully through the wires at the rich pastures on the other side. To all their distress, the heartless, selfish owner seemed utterly callous and indifferent. He simply did not care. What if his sheep did want green grass; fresh water; shade; safety or shelter from the storms? What if they did want relief from wounds, bruises, disease and parasites? He ignored their needs — he couldn’t care less. Why should he — they were just sheep — fit only for the slaughterhouse.
This is bad enough for sheep: how much more when the saints are dealt this treatment? What did Paul say; Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. (Acts 20:28–29 NKJV) The sheep will need a place to go after the wolves have scattered them. These sheep are saints who have been purchased by the blood of Christ. Many have been savagely wounded and are not assembling at all. The wounds are too profound. Some wolf attacks result in a person’s refusing to ever darken the door of an organized church again. Think about that. What are they going to do in terms of assembling with the saints? This is where house churches can come in to play.
However, the wolves will tell their congregational members not to attend a house church. In fact, they don’t want their members doing anything with other churches unless they are present to supervise. This is the great challenge. A wolf generally has a strangle hold on the people. Wolves do everything they can to undermine the legitimacy of a house meeting — even though this is how church was conducted until Constantine in the 300s. That is amazing! Moreover, those who they do allow to attend are likely being used as pawns to gather information. Otherwise, they would not be allowed to go. This is the sad reality of it all.
Again, the sheep will need a place to go after the wolves have scattered them. Maybe you are reading this and you are an Out of Church Christian. Perhaps it is time to pray and seek the Lord about establishing a small Bible-based fellowship in your own home? Go through the New Testament and highlight passages that refer to “the church in _____ house.” You will find that this was the common method in the first century.