by Theodore Wright
Inviting believers in Jesus to a home fellowship of other believers or inviting them to a Bible-believing church is not, of itself, sheep stealing. It is not taking them away from the Lord. However, if these believers have a commitment or responsibility to others in their church, it should be well understood if they decline the invitation. Coersion should not be exercised to pry others from their Bible church or fellowship.
Pastors who see a number of their attendees or members going elsewhere have used the old-cry accusation “Sheep stealers!”.
We have a number of questions for these pastors…
Are these who you refer to as your sheep all actually saved through your ministry? If not, then do you believe that these are your sheep only because, from some other church, you stole them first? By the way, whose sheep are these anyway? Are these not the Lord’s sheep? We are not stealing them from the Lord unto a different gospel which is not the one true one.
The Apostle Paul said…
So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. – 1 Corinthians 3:7 (KJV)
We also would like to ask these pastors…
Are you certain that the Lord has assigned you to be the one who does the whole job for all these sheep to grow in Christ, without including other believers who may be in attendance elsewhere? Do you believe they must be in your church due to the Lord showing you or out of arrogance? I might also ask, “Whose church is this anyway?” while I am asking. Are you so certain that God’s plan for us is to stay here to serve Christ, if it is that we would ever be released by you to serve locally?
If the Lord has shown his work and ministry through us, what should yet hinder us from being released? If eyes are open to recognize God’s work through us, this is good. However, if eyes are closed to us then keeping us here can be keeping us back from God’s will. It is fear not wisdom that prevents releasing to ministry those who are approved unto God, qualified and empowered by the Holy Spirit, prepared and ready in the Lord.
Sheep stealing? Baaa! We are not being stolen. We have free minds and free consciences toward God. If we go elsewhere, we should not be made to feel intimidated. If we were visiting cults, this would be acceptable to hear an accusation of being sheep stolen but this is not the case. Do you fault the other fellowship we visit for not being so pure in doctrine as you esteem that of our local church? Are you so very certain that the local church and its doctrine are all so pure?
The Lord Jesus said…
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. – John 10:4 (KJV)
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. – John 10:14 (KJV)
We follow where the Lord leads. Should we be endangering our faith by going elsewhere we would understand, however, we are the universal body of Christ and will fellowship accordingly. Are we to live as if the local small pond is greater than Christ Himself or His universal body of believers. We are not restricted by four walls. We attend church where we do freely unto God and are not under bondage. Yet, we are also not to be solicited nor brought under bondage. We are not to be made merchandise of, neither by other churches nor by what we consider our own Bible church to fellowship with. While invitations to other Christian fellowships can be appreciated, inticing us to leave the Bible church we attend is not good form. That would be fishing for those who are already in the tank.
The Lord Jesus calls us, we hear Him, so we follow. Therefore, pastors, thank you for your work of faith and labor in the Lord to equip us. We have bloomed where we planted and need a bigger pot. Perhaps the teaching lacks the depth we need now to go on further. If we cannot serve God in our call in your church, then we will follow the Lord as he may lead us elsewhere. We may yet need to search out the will of God about this, so we might not be around all the time. We know you do not like this but we mean no offense. Unfortunately, you may not understand this and have a lot to say to find an excuse to pin us down to your church. We know we might not receive your blessing about this so we will likely need to be quiet about it with you so you do not feel offended. It is not a matter of you being robbed. It is God working out His plans in all of our lives. Peace in Christ.