Shepherding God’s Flock (16)
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. Ephesians 5.11
The late Francis Schaeffer wrote about the way “nature gobbles up grace” as worldly thoughts and ways seep into Christian life unrecognized and become established as acceptable. We become captive to “the spirit of the naturalism of the age” because we don’t recognize it as the enemy of true faith.
Nowhere is this more the case than in our desire to be loved and esteemed by those we serve.
Shepherds must defend the Lord’s sheep against all false teaching and every slippery slope of naturalism, especially the unbridled self-love and narcissism that characterize our day. But first they must defend themselves.
Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604) insisted on this for the shepherds for whom he exercised oversight: “Meanwhile it is also necessary for the ruler to keep wary watch, lest the lust of pleasing men assail him; lest, when he studiously penetrates the things that are within, and providently supplies the things that are without, he seek to be beloved of those that are under him more than truth; lest, while supported by his good deeds, he seems not to belong to the world, self-love estrange him from his Maker. For he is the Redeemer’s enemy who through the good works which he does covets being loved by the Church instead of Him…”
Our unguarded drifting into unbridled self-love will gobble up the grace of God in our lives, and our ministries will become barren and fruitless. There is always the temptation to want to please the people we serve. We should please them, of course, but only to the extent that our ministry brings them into the Presence of Him Who is the fullness of joy and pleasure forever more (Ps. 16:11). We go awry when we bend our efforts and instruction to draw the love of church members principally to ourselves, rather than to God. Let us recognize and expose every such tendency, lest, continuing unrecognized, they destroy our ministries.
Resources for Shepherds
Throughout the course of Church history, church leaders have fallen prey to the spiritual and philosophical enemies of their day, leading their churches into one or another form of captivity. Is this the case in our day? Our book, The Church Captive, explores that question, looking to the past to see what we can learn about our own situation today. Order your free copy by clicking here.
From the Celtic Revival
Columbanus understood about exposing the enemies of the Lord:
During his stay in Milan, [Columbanus] resolved to attack the errors of the heretics, that is, the Arian perfidy, which he wanted to cut out and exterminate with the cauterizing knife of the Scriptures. And he composed an excellent and learned work against them.
- Jonas, Life of St. Columban
Thence we now force the kingdom of heaven by strength and violence, and this we snatch somehow, as it were, from amidst our enemies hands in the middle of the field of strife, and as it were in the blood-stained soil of battle, while we are to hardly assailed not only by our foes but by ourselves, while each loves himself ill, and in the act of loving hurts himself; for he loves well who hates, that is, disciplines himself savingly, but he who makes terms with his foes is not said to love himself aright.
- Columbanus, Sermon X
Crosfigell is mailed every Tuesday and Thursday and offers insights and meditations on writings from the period of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800). You can add Crosfigell to your subscriptions by clicking here.
We have some free resources that can help you understand and appreciate the Celtic Revival. Our PDF book, Living to Rule, summarizes the spiritual and other disciplines followed by monks throughout Ireland in those days. And our PDF book, The Celtic Revival: A Brief Introduction, can give you an overview of the entire period. For even more resources on this period, visit our web page devoted to The Celtic Revival.
Visit our Resources for Shepherds page to read reviews and insights and to discover websites and journals, that can encourage you in your walk with and work for the Lord.
T. M. Moore.
Please pray that God will move many of those we serve through this ministry to share with us financially in its support. If the Lord moves you to give, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal or Anedot, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Jonas, p. 35
 Walker, pp. 103, 105