Will we be shepherds who defend the sheep and help those who are vulnerable?

In late May, I posed this question to the N.C. Baptist board of directors: What kind of shepherds will we be?

This question is based on Ezekiel 34, and I first posed it approximately 24 hours after the release of the report that chronicled how a small cadre of leaders at the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) mishandled sexual abuse claims and mistreated abuse survivors during a span of 20 years.

Now, following the SBC annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif., the question remains a relevant one for all of us: What kind of shepherds will we be?

Will we be shepherds who defend the sheep and help those who are vulnerable? Or will we be shepherds who seek personal gain at the expense of others?

In light of the devastating and heartbreaking contents of the report and the recommendations for reform that we considered in Anaheim, what kind of shepherds will we be?

Times like these are a great opportunity for us to seek the Lord and simply ask Him, “Lord, what would you have of me?” 

First, we must continue to grieve over this matter and with those who have suffered and survived the pain and trauma of sexual abuse. In Romans 12:15, the Bible calls us to weep with those who weep and to mourn with those who mourn. Many of our brothers and sisters are weeping and mourning, and we need to continue to weep and mourn with them.

Will we be shepherds who defend the sheep and help those who are vulnerable?

Second, we must pray. You have often heard me say that prayer cannot be our last resort, but it must be our primary strategy. We must continue to pray for and with abuse survivors everywhere. We must pray for conviction and repentance for the horrendous sins that have taken place. We must pray for wisdom in how to continue moving forward through the healing and hope that only God can give.

Third, we must act. What took place for nearly two decades with the SBC Executive Committee should never have happened. There have been calls for sweeping changes within our national convention to make sure what took place won’t take place again. We must do everything we can in our churches to protect survivors and prevent abuse from even happening in the first place. 

By God’s grace, this is a gospel moment for all of us. We can demonstrate what it means to follow Jesus by confessing, repenting and taking steps to be more like Him.

In Ephesians 5:3, the apostle Paul writes, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” I pray that this is true for all N.C. Baptists and all N.C. Baptist churches.

In Ezekiel 34, the Lord gives a word of prophetic warning to unfaithful shepherds of Israel who seek to take care of themselves while neglecting God’s flock. The Lord vows to hold them accountable. 

As we seek the face of God through lament, prayer and action, may the words and warnings of the prophet haunt us and convict us.

What kind of shepherd will I be? What kind of shepherd will you be? What kind of shepherds will we all be?

By God’s grace, may we be found faithful.