A very strange animal
by Terry Camsey, Major –
I’m talking about the organizational structure of the Army where, from one perspective, there is a hierarchal chain of command somewhat similar to that of the military…in which leaders give orders and followers are expected to do just that (follow) without question.
The truth, however, is that—regardless of the decision that gave us our present name—we are substantially an Army of volunteers. We—as soldiers, officers and lay people alike—follow (or not) by and large, because we want to, not because someone else tells us we have to.
There are many images in the New Testament that throw light on the way the church is supposed to function. Rick Warren has suggested: as a fellowship (Acts 2:42, 1 Cor. 5:2), as a family (Gal. 6:10, Heb. 2:10-12, 1 Peter 4:17), as a body (1 Cor. 12:27, Eph. 1:22-23, 5:23 et al.), and as a flock (Matt. 26:31, Luke 12:32). Each of these gives insight but the latter is, I believe, of particular significance with its responsibilities laid upon both shepherds and sheep.
Consider this table (put together by C. Peter Wagner) that highlights some of these responsibilities:
Shepherd’s Responsibilities To Sheep
- Call sheep by name
- Lead out
- Walk ahead (1)
- Is over the sheep
- Works hard (2)
- Has rule over sheep
- Watches out for their souls
- Must give account (3)
- Feed the flock
- Have oversight
- Be an example
- Not be tyrannical (4)
Sheep’s Responsibilities To Shepherd
- Hear his voice
- Recognize (acknowledge)
- his voice
- Follow (1)
- Honor shepherd
- Think highly of him
- Love him (2)
- Cause joy (3)
- Follow (entrusted to the
- shepherd by God) (4)
(1) John 10:2-4, (2) 1 Thess. 5:12-13, (3) Hebrews 13:17, (4) 1 Peter 5:2-3
These are very specific responsibilities, biblical imperatives, in fact, and awesome in their implications. But, consider this. What we tend to overlook is that—within our hierarchal system—every shepherd and under-shepherd also is a sheep of the shepherd over them. A Home League leader is under-shepherd to the flock she is responsible for, but a sheep of the flock the corps officer is responsible for. The same is true of every local officer.
Then, the corps officer, while under-shepherd of his congregation, is also a sheep of the flock the divisional commander is responsible for.
The divisional commander, in turn, may be the under-shepherd of the officers under his span of (hate the word! “control”) influence, but he/she is also a sheep of the flock the territorial commander is responsible for. And one could continue up, until we realize that every one of us is a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd, Christ himself, and entrusted to the care of under-shepherds appointed to care for us.
And here, I think is the danger…the point at which this biblically mandated model could break down…
…it is when shepherds don’t want to be sheep. Regardless of the fact that they are sheep in one context (while shepherds in another), they want to be shepherds (i.e. in charge) in every context. Don’t want to hear the shepherd’s voice, or acknowledge his authority, or follow him…don’t want to honor the shepherd placed over them or think highly of him, or love him…don’t want to obey, or submit…or cause him joy (in fact, cause sometimes the reverse!). It’s a sobering thought that anyone causing their shepherd grief is outside the will of God.
Where he leads me I will follow? It could revolutionize the Army.