An elderly landowner had two grandsons, both of whom longed to be farmers in their own right. Two of his farms, of equal size and value, had lain semi-derelict for decades. He was keen that his inherited land should remain in the family so, when he died, he left one farm to Grandson A and the other to Grandson B. Additionally he left each of them £50,000 to help with running the farm and turning it into a profit-making operation.
Grandson A was so excited to receive the deeds of his farm and he immediately went out and spent all his money on the very best animals he could find and set out to make his fortune on the farm.
Grandson B, however, spent the whole of his first year of ownership of his farm repairing the buildings and, especially, mending the fences and rebuilding the broken down walls. By the time he’d finished all this work, he only had a small amount of his money left, with which he bought a small flock of sheep.
Meanwhile, Grandson A was having a lot of problems. He placed his prize cattle in the field in front of his farm but, to his horror, found that they were all gone in the morning. As animals will do, they had soon found the holes in the walls and fences and by the time morning came, they were scattered all over the place. And, sadly, one of them had got onto the main road and caused an accident in which the animal was killed, and as a result of which a child lay seriously injured in hospital. It wasn’t long before legal papers arrived which made it very clear that the farmer was responsible for the accident by not having had his fences in good order. Not only did he lose the animal that had died, but another person’s life was terribly scarred. Eventually he had to sell all the rest of the animals, and the farm to pay the damages.
Grandson A had first thought that Grandson B was wasting his opportunity by spending so much time on mending the offences and repairing the walls. But now he realised that his own failure to spend time and money on this had eventually brought disaster upon himself and he was left with nothing.
Grandson B, however, had taken time to protect his small flock of sheep. They soon multiplied and year on year his farm became more and more successful. Everyone came to see how he had made the farm so profitable and he told everyone who came the most important principle he had learned – mend the fences, keep the boundaries secure and the flock will be safe.
Two young men became Christians from very similar backgrounds. Both had been into many things in their former lives. But they joined different churches.
Christian A’s church was so excited that such a worldly young man had found the Saviour, that they soon had him doing all sorts of things right away. He was a great musician and he gave his testimony everywhere. He was paraded around like a trophy and became quite a star in his church circles. But beneath the surface there were problems. Pride became a real issue and the more publicity he was given, the bigger the problem became! He had come from living quite an immoral lifestyle – the boundaries of his life were quite disordered – and because nothing had been done to mend the fences of his broken down life, he was soon found to be straying into fields that Christians shouldn’t be entering. Before long his testimony was quite discredited and he left the church –he’d tried Christianity, it hadn’t changed anything and he finished up throwing himself headlong into his former way of life.
Christian B’s church, however, rejoiced in the fact that he had become a Christian, but immediately set about the task of making this new Christian into a disciple. They spent time with him, looking at the areas of his life where the moral boundaries had been breached in the past and where there were real issues that needed healing. They prayed with him through the issues that caused him problems and little by little the areas of weaknesses were dealt with and he became strong. For quite a while the church leaders were content to see him slowly but surely become established in his faith as a member of the congregation. But before too long it became obvious that he had some very real gifts that God could use and he was carefully released into using his gifts and became a very effective and valuable member of the fellowship. Years later, when he became a Pastor himself, and would share his testimony with his congregation, he would always say that those years of ‘doing nothing’ in the church, except learning to be a disciple were the most important part of his Christian story. Without them, he said, he would have soon gone back to the world he had come from through the gaps in the fences of his life.
All the above is a parable which filled my mind yesterday morning as I looked out of my bedroom window and saw a flock of sheep in a well-kept field.
The Lord’s voice was unmistakeable, “Spend time helping people to mend the fences and maintain the boundaries of their lives and you will be building leaders who will be able to lead the Church in times of temptation and testing. If you fail to do this the enemy of souls will have little difficulty in plundering the flock.”
There was a quiet soberness in my heart as I travelled into Ellel Grange, knowing that God had just spoken deep into my spirit to remind me of what the great commission is all about – “Go into all the world and MAKE DISCIPLES.”