Because There Was No Shepherd, by Brian Knowles, Wild Olive Publications, Monrovia, California, 2000, 128 pp. Available for $9 from Giving & Sharing, 3316 Alberta Drive, Gillette, WY 82718.
Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of professing Christians throughout the Western world, constitute an army of walking wounded. They are turned off with church politics, compromised and compromising ministers, doctrinal conflicts, cults of personality, and the stress of endless organizational upheavals. Sadly disillusioned, some have left, or are considering abandoning their Christian faith. It wasn’t persecution that caused this sorry condition, but “friendly fire” from within.
Brian Knowles wrote, Because There Was No Shepherd to minister to these walking wounded. For fifteen years, Knowles served as an employee of the Worldwide Church of God, and was a manager of its media department. Upon leaving the organization, Knowles, in bitterness and anger, turned to atheism, then agnosticism, humanism, scientific materialism, and even dabbled in the New Age. Now, he is a recovering religion-a-holic. He has been there and done that, and he has some very cogent advice for those in the same boat.
Why is it that most churches concentrate on obtaining new converts, “preaching the gospel to the world,” but ignore the quiet exodus out the back door of the church? It is because of this: “For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd,” Zechariah 10:2. Some self-destructive shepherds scatter their own flocks.
“Exit interviews” reveal some surprising reasons why so many people leave Christian churches. Perhaps the top reason would shock and embarrass most pastors: “Boredom with sermons and church services.” Doctrinal disagreement is a major reason as well. However, many of the reasons are directly related to shepherds who do not shepherd their flocks: abuse of ministerial authority, sexual improprieties by the leadership, financial corruption in the leadership, personal injustices, focus on human leaders instead of on Christ, domineering personalities who want to run everyone’s lives, etc. But, church pastors are not all bad shepherds.
How can you avoid the deadly trap of the root of bitterness and despair? Those who have been hurt by other Christians need to get over unforgiveness, and avail themselves of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. There is no perfect church, because there are no perfect people. Nevertheless, we need positive fellowship with others, spiritual mentors, and this book provides some practical suggestions how to avoid destructive church relationships, and find positive ones. Knowles notes, “In the years ahead, it will be increasingly important to build relationships with other Christians based on common spiritual de–nominators, than to seek commonality in doctrinal unity. . . . This is not the time to focus energy on our sectarian differences and petty squabbles about leadership and doctrinal nuances. At very fundamental levels, we must become ‘one body’.”
Knowles gives an “Appendix For Ministers Only,” which supports those men called to the toughest, least appreciated, job in the world, that of a minister of the Gospel.
Brian Knowles’ stormy career has been a spiritual journey. In 1973, when I knew him, we both worked for the Worldwide Church of God in Pasadena, California, where his liberal sermons earned him the nickname, “Know-less.” Even today, he is not sure if the Sabbath is for Gentiles as well as for Israelites. I find such ideas indefensible. However, some of my best friends are liberals, who often grasp the substance of Truth more than superficial Pharisaical “conservatives” who practice only what their religious leader tells them to do. Right doctrine should eventually result from a right attitude, a right relationship, with God.
Knowles’ book, Because There Was No Shepherd, may be just the ticket to redeem innumerable thousands who have been turned off, disillusioned, with Sabbath-keepers playing church. You can rebuild your one-on-one relationship with God. Brian sagely notes, “whether or not one remains a Christian after leaving a fellowship is determined by the kind of friends they retain, or pick.”
Get this book. Read it. Follow its advice. Give it those who have left the Church. Help others to find the Good Shepherd, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. — by Richard C. Nickels