Sheepwalking

I’m reading Tribes by Seth Godin bit by bit. Even though not everything applies to my setting, it’s interesting to read his different perspective. I thought this was particularly provoking:

I define sheepwalking as the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them brain-dead jobs and enough fear to keep them in line. (96)

He’s talking about a business, but I believe he’d have no problem recognizing the same issue in a church. He might have said, “I define sheepwalking as the outcome of leading people who have been taught to be obedient and giving them brain-dead ministries and enough fear to keep them in line.”

On the next page, Godin considers it in light of the goal of education.

Training a student to be a sheep is a lot easier than the alternative. Teaching to the test, ensuring compliant behavior, and using fear as a motivator are the easiest and fastest ways to get a kid through school. So why does it surprise us that we graduate so many sheep? (97)

Back to a church, one reason why a pastor may prefer docile sheep is that the sheep will continue to need him. That’s not just wrong, it’s counterproductive. Part of the pastoral role includes equipping sheep not to need the shepherds, at least not to the same degree, and certainly not more as the sheep mature. A pastor can’t help people mature by teaching them that they always need to hold the pastor’s hand.

Pastors should want sheep to be obedient to God, not necessarily to get “in line” with all the church programs. Shepherds should want a flock that fears God, while being trained to bear God’s image without the shepherds always watching over their shoulder. Maybe the first problem is that too many pastors are sheepwalking themselves.