Ch 29 ... The Wolf.
Paul said to the Ephesian elders: “Be Shepherds of the church of God … Savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number people will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28ff)
Jesus said “I am the Good Shepherd ... I lay down my life for the sheep. The hired hand ... when he seed the wolf coming runs away...” (John 10: 11ff)
With such admonitions and examples to live up to, being a pastor is not an enviable task!
The spiritual wolf that attacked at Bayles looked like a harmless old lady
She started to come to Bayles from a town a little distance away at a time when Bayles was getting a “name” as a charismatic church and a few people started to come from nearby towns. I suspect she took great pains to stay under my radar for as long as possible. I am embarrassed to have to admit that she succeeded. Good shepherds should be on the lookout for wolves-in-sheep's-clothing. But I was hard pressed on every side and suffering from mental exhaustion and from depression and let my guard slip. The Anglo-catholic priest of the parish where she lived later told me that she tried to get a hold in his church but both he and the older ladies of the congregation spotted that she was not all she pretended to be and because of this and the strong authority structure in more “Catholic” churches she could not get a toehold and left.
What did she do? She stayed quietly in the background. She was very friendly to various members of the congregation – especially new converts – but also groomed Ross and Robyn who were the de-facto ministry couple, giving them “helpful” spiritual advice and taking an interest in them.
She took to regularly visiting people she had befriended at church, once again giving them spiritual counsel. She started giving them “spiritual” books (when I got hold of some of these books I was horrified – they started at the heresies I described two posts back and went completely over the edge into cleverly anti-Christian, yet Christian sounding teaching). One book even used the very verse of scripture that the Devil used to tempt Jesus – and in exactly the same way!
In short she worked assiduously to win over the congregation to personal loyalty to her and to a religion that was actually a denial of Christianity.
Two things eventually tipped me off that she was seriously bad.
First she came to St. Georges’ Koo-wee-rup for some occasion and the older mature Christian women in the congregation picked her as a fraud straight off! I had enough sense to trust their judgement.
Then I noticed that when I preached on the cross of Christ, which in a congregation of new Christians one does quite a bit because everything hinges on it and ties back to it and this needs pointing out – when I preached on the cross of Christ I got a glimpse of her face: it was almost as though she was in pain – she could not bear to hear of God’s victory and of the defeat of Satan. I was now on my guard, but too late.
As I rose to give what turned out to be my final sermon at Bayles I had a mental image of being a shepherd whose sheep were stampeding (maybe only cattle stampede, but it was an image OK) I knew that in my little way I had to be like Jesus: I had to stand up to the wolf: I had to do my best to protect these sheep for whom Christ died!
In my image of stampeding sheep I was the shepherd standing in their path trying to stop them. They were likely unstoppable but I had to do my duty and go down trying to stop them.
I preached Christ: Christ the Son of God. Christ our Saviour by his death and resurrection. Christ the rightful Lord of our lives. It was a sermon that any true Christian should have responded to in the sentiment of the old hymn “Tell me the Old Old Story …. Tell me the story often for I forget so soon”. I was astute enough to know the mood of the congregation was just the opposite, and the “little old lady” was not even bothering to hide her pain and rage at the story of Christ.
The next Sunday I went as usual. I was alone. Not another soul turned up. I later heard she had taken the entire congregation and set up her own “church” which split and disintegrated soon after.
She actually came to see me later. The wraps were off this time. I found myself facing a lady of immense demonic spiritual and psychic powers. I had met what St. Paul called a wolf.