by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
September 22, 2002

I was already a teenager when the people next door took me to a Baptist church for the first time. Being an outsider, I have always had a tendency to see things differently. Outsiders usually do.

Take the subject of leadership for instance. When I first came to church a half century ago I saw a man leading his people. He was very much a shepherd, tending his sheep. But over the years preachers like him died out and were replaced by a different kind of men. Being from outside the camp I've noticed that.

In the main, these new preachers are too skittish to lead. As George Barna put it, "Most people who are in positions of leadership in local churches are not leaders." They are sheep in shepherd's clothing. Shepherds take care of their flocks, and lead them into green pastures. Shepherds decide where flocks go, and when, and why. Sheep, on the other hand, go along in droves, never looking to the right or left, never questioning where they are headed - or why. The pressure of public opinion shapes them rather than the voice of God. Fear of what people will think motivates their every move. A. W. Tozer pointed out that they have "some interest to protect, some position to secure." They are always looking over their shoulders, browbeaten into silent conformity, terrified of the disapproval of other pastors, church members - and especially their wives.

They are sheep in shepherd's clothing, and like all sheep, they run in droves. This has had a tragic effect on our churches, because God doesn't speak to droves. He speaks to solitary men, and I have chosen the word "solitary" carefully. If you think I'm wrong, consider leaders like Noah, Moses, Jonah, Daniel, Paul. God did not speak to them in pastors' conferences, or motivational seminars.

There is a sharp contrast between men like them and the sheep in shepherd's clothing who occupy the pulpits in far too many churches today. The sheep rush forward, in a herd, following a human voice. And the human voice they most often follow is that of the pastor in a "big" church. You see, these sheep-shepherds are interested in only one thing: they want to learn how to transfer more people into their churches - out of someone else's. And they follow the "big" preacher to learn his tricks.

There is a name for this tomfoolery - it's called "philosophical pragmatism." The pragmatic theory, said William James, holds that "a belief is true if and only if it is useful." Having studied some philosophy at a secular university, I was surprised (as an outsider) to learn that the sheep-shepherds are unwittingly influenced by an agnostic like William James far more than they are by the Word of God.  "A belief is true only if it's useful." So, whatever "scheme" the "big" preacher uses becomes "the truth." You see, to the sheep-shepherds, if it "works" it's true! Pure pagan pragmatism reigns in their churches! God's truth is replaced by gimmicks. And the preacher becomes little more than a huckster.