There’s a rather challenging scenario that pastors often face, one that goes something like this: A member asks you what you think about a certain unfaithful practice that may be somewhat common in the Christian realm but is unfaithful nevertheless. And you tell them that practice is unfaithful. Then they say, “But Pastor So and So let us do that.” And you try to dodge it a bit because you know they loved Pastor So and So, and you say, “well, I’m not really sure what he would have meant by that, but here’s what the Scriptures say and that’s why we don’t do that thing.” And then they say, “but Pastor So and So didn’t think that. And I loved Pastor So and So. Are you saying he was wrong?” And at that point, you just sort of have to say “yes, he was wrong.” You may not explicitly use the word “wolf” but you have to let them know that, yes, unfortunately, on that issue, the man Jesus called to be a shepherd to them was instead acting as a wolf, devouring rather than feeding, scattering rather than gathering, seeking his own glory rather than the glory of the Good Shepherd.
This is a challenging scenario for pastors to face. But, of course, it shouldn’t come as a surprise because Paul warned about exactly this kind of thing in our reading from Acts chapter 20. In the wild, what’s born a wolf stays a wolf and what’s not a wolf never becomes a wolf. But in the church, things are quite different. Very often, the wolves are not life-long wolves who have always been malicious, conniving creatures who have always been intent on preying upon the weak. Nor are the wolves always outsiders who sneak in to kill and destroy. Very often they’re men who arise from our own midst, speaking twisted things not because they’re consciously trying to destroy Christ’s flock, but because they’ve slowly given themselves over to weakness or foolishness or greed, to sloth, to indifference towards the Scriptures. They’ve gradually developed a greater taste for the praise of the world than the praise of God and gradually developed a greater love of glorifying themselves than the Lord of Glory. In other words, you don’t have to realize you’re a wolf to be a wolf. And what makes the wolf’s fangs sharp is not so much the intentions behind his words but the consequences of his words.
So always pay attention to the words coming from your pastor’s mouth. Don’t let yourself be blinded by your affection for him. Be charitable towards him, of course, but don’t be naive to the fact that Satan has sifted far greater men than the pastors your heart holds dearest. And if they stumble, remind them of the word of grace they are supposed to preach–the word of grace that gives you the inheritance purchased for you in the blood of your Good Shepherd. And remind them of that by rejoicing when they preach it to you. When your pastor tells you how the Good Shepherd shattered the jaws of the serpent and every wolf with His righteous and risen foot, thank him. Show up to hear him preach this again and again. Love your pastor by loving the Savior he preaches more.