What is “sheepstealing” you might ask? It is when one congregation in an entirely superficial effort to bring more attendance (thereby, contributions, influence, etc.) will attempt to steal away members from one faithful congregation to theirs. This is an undermining of the local community and is an action of pride.
So why would a topic like this be under the banner of “iSharpen @ PFP?” Because the aim of this article is to encourage as is the aim of every iSharpen article. We seek to exemplify Proverbs 27:17 – “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” And one way that we can encourage members of the church of Christ and preachers in their local congregations is to warn them of the dangers and appeal to steal away members from sister congregations. It is much easier to steal away a member from a neighboring congregation than it is to evangelize and convert a new member. Instead of dismantling or gimping sister congregations, we ought to bolster them, rally behind them and support them in their endeavors. That is what keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3) is all about!
In the local congregation, whose sheep are the members? Are they the elder’s sheep? Are they the preacher’s sheep? Are they “church of chister” sheep (that is, do they belong to what people suppose is a denomination)? We would answer no to each of those questions. We would quote the Lord Himself when he said, “I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep, and am known by My own… My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:14, 27). When we read Jesus’ words we are met with overwhelming condemnation of sheep stealing. Jesus does not teach that of the many local congregations we are separate entities working to our own end, but rather teaches that “(He) is the Vine, (we) are the branches” (John 15:1). “We, being many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). Jesus slammed shut the door of opportunity in the minds of any who aim to make profit off the church of Christ in money, power, or notoriety by acquiring members by way of sheepstealing when He declared, “there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Nothing is up for debate on how Jesus feels about His sheep.
Jesus has all authority (Mat. 28:18) over His church of which He is the head (Eph 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). And He has nothing but the greatest desire for His people to be in unity together. His prayer to God was this: “ That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me… I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:21,23).
“We, being many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another”