Wolves

Where there’s a lot of sheep, wolves gather. Here are some varieties of wolves I’ve been recently observing around movements:

1) Those who claim the sheep as their own. Many anecdotal reports of people who visit a movement, photograph themselves with the movement, and then claim the movement’s fruit as their own in newsletters, social media, etc. The movement itself has no association with this particular wolf, and may not even know what they are doing.

2) Those who try to tell the sheep they aren’t sheep. (More bluntly: those who tell people “you don’t have the authority to pastor, to baptize, to lead, to help, etc.”) This is occasionally tied to the fact that these kinds of wolves are often paid for their buildings, sheep or baptisms, and thus the success of another means less for them.

A colleague of mine notes two variants of this type: a) those who believe their teaching is the only true way. These are often known as cults or sects. And, b) those who are so convinced of the correctness and importance of their doctrinal distinctives (Calvinism, Pentecostal second work of grace, etc.) that they do their best to point the sheep toward “better” theology.

3) Those who entice the sheep to join their fold. Once a group of sheep start to multiply rapidly, some may try to entice these groups to join their network, church, denomination, etc., thus bolstering the group’s numbers and growth rates with very little benefit to the sheep. Offers of buildings, salaries, support, etc. may ensue.

4) Those who try to get the sheep of other under-shepherds imprisoned or killed. Unfortunately, often persecution arises when other Christians report new believers to the government or religious militants. This is usually due to jealousy and/or fear.

“Double counting” in movements is, in my experience, often more of an honest mistake or a misinterpretation than wolfish behavior. When someone says “the number of believers in movements we help is X”, and another group says the same thing – but they are both helping many of the same movements – people who add up those numbers can get into double counting without realizing it. This isn’t the same as wolf type #1.

The best way to counter wolves is to have deep and ongoing relationships with sheep – to be true shepherds and do everything you can to protect the flock. Of the four kinds of wolves identified above, I think the last two categories are the most dangerous to existing movements.