“You will need to go out and sniff the sheep!”
This was a phrase (I kid you not!) I saw for an advert for a Pioneer Minister in Portsmouth.
It made me snigger as I don’t consider myself a sheep sniffer!
But did think about the image…
Where do we discover what God is doing in his world? I’d suggest not from a safe distance in our comfortable churches, but in the midst of the community and listening to see where God is at work.
It reminded me too that mission us actually about people more than strategy, and often the key component (which is so often missing) is relationships, we are in danger of knowing about our communities rather than knowing the people within the communities.
Smelling the sheep is an unpleasant job with lots of sheep poo to encounter. Something we’d rather not do! Yet the only way of understanding a community is by being immersed into it, being among and alongside, it’s about seeing, smelling, hearing and tasting life in that community.
Yet I believe that is the Kingdom way of discovering where God is calling as we get into a community rather than standing and looking at it from a distance from the touchline.
When we do Street Pastors I often talk about double listening, listening to the voice of Gods spirit and the voice of the culture around us.
I think Christians should be running too the smelly places, the dark places, the places of hurt and brokenness, as surely this is where Christ’s love, hope and transformation is needed the most.
In many ways, this type of mission is what Jesus did, he came among us as one of us, and wasn’t shielded from the horrors of a broken humanity.
I heard a tragic story of JJohns evangelistic event in a Cathedral, it was packed, and he askd who here attends Church regularly and almost every hand went up. We often do missional events to Christians to make us all feel better about ourselves, rather than trying to be Missional in amongst the stench of the farmyard, surrounded by the sheep.
I was thinking about being a Vicar as a shepherd (after all bishops have crooks the imagery is there in scripture) and Jesus talks about being a good shepherd laying down their life for the sheep.
The call to be missional and to seek where God is calling in your community will be sacrificial, costly and probably for the long haul… Its a costly call.
The Good shepherd in Luke 15, who goes to “seek and save the lost”…yet to often we act out the parable in reverse we have two or three fat sheep in churches wanting 100% of the shepherds time where the 99 are wandering the hills being devoured by wolves.
So lets get out of our Churches and our comfortable comfort zones, and lets immerse ourselves into the communities that God has placed us, listening and learning, seeing and sensing, hearing and absorbing as we discover deeply what Christ and the community are crying out for?
Are we going to be good shepherds seeking out the hurting and broken?
Are we going to be good shepherds prepared to sacrifice our lives for those God has called us to serve.