Amusing sheep stories abound. Some of my moments of more rigorous chortling have been in response to real-life sheep tragi-comedies. One of the more recent involves what is called the “Draad Kruiper,” which I heard from my good friend, Pastor Anton Van Straaten. “Draad Kruiper” is Afrikaans for, “fence crawler.” The story goes like this:
There was a shepherd who owned many sheep and took good care of them in his pasture. However, not all of the sheep took a liking to the plentiful feeding provided in the grassy sheepfold. One day, the shepherd noticed that one of his sheep was missing. Being a faithful shepherd, he scanned the fold for the sheep.
Missing sheep was not an uncommon thing. Now and then a renegade sheep would bolt the fold only to end up tangled in a bramble bush upside down, or worse. But this time, the shepherd did not have to go far to find the missing sheep. As he scanned the grassy yard, he noticed the sheep just on the other side of the fence. The sheep stood there nonchalantly, just looking at the shepherd. He wasn’t running, moving, struggling, or hurt. Just standing there by the fence. So, being a reliable shepherd, and knowing it was that sheep’s first escapade, he gently moved the erring sheep back into the lush barnyard and reminded it of what it already knew; that there was plenty of good eats inside the fold.
The next day, when the shepherd awoke to feed the flock, he noticed that the same sheep was missing. Sure enough, there it was standing in the same place on the other side of the fence. It looked at him. He looked at it. It didn’t move, but stood there, again, nonchalantly and unhurt. Since the sheep was full-grown, the shepherd couldn’t quite figure out how it was getting out. So, he brought it back in again. The next day, the shepherd observed the same, full-grown sheep in the act. Like a snake slithering on the ground, the sheep was straining to flatten itself, and slink underneath the few-inch barbed-wire fence. He noticed the sheep exerted great effort throughout the laborious process, lowering its body, wiggling its way under the wire, and crawling inch by inch, until finally it emerged on the other side of the fence. It took far more effort to snake under the few inches between the barbed wire and the ground than it did to humbly integrate into the flock. For days the sheep did the same thing. And, interestingly, it never ran away. It always stood just on the other side of the fence. It loved to crawl under the fence and just stand there, always near the sheepfold, but never in the sheepfold. The “Draad Kruiper.”
If there were no human parallels, the Draad Kruiper would simply be a funny story. Not coincidentally, God likens humans to sheep more than any other thing. Perhaps parallels exist more often than not.
Here are a few ways that we might be like the Draad Kruiper:
- Professing Jesus Christ but failing to plug into a NT kind of local church.
Like the Draad Kruiper, many want to profess that they are in God’s sheepfold, but never express it. But, candid, committed, and consisted involvement in God’s kind of a church is the way his people get to express it. Plugging into a biblical church is the knee-jerk, continual response of the Holy Spirit in regenerate individuals. He wants to maintain the unity of himself (cf. Eph. 4:3-6). One way he does that is by moving us to express our global/eternal identity as “member of the Body of Christ” by expressing that identity locally/temporally. Like having to exhort someone to eat, it’s not a sign that I am doing well if local church leaders have to repeatedly encourage me to allow God to care for me by enthusiastically plugging into a sound church.
- Irregular or infrequent participation in corporate worship.
Now, there are rare situations like shut-ins, illness, pioneering foreign church-planting, and seasonal, unchangeable job situations which keep us from corporate worship. But for God’s people, they are pained when they have to be away (cf. Heb. 10:24-25). Like missing a festive feast with their best friends and closest family, God’s people are grieved when they miss the corporate gathering. It’s never a casual thing for them.
The Draad Kruiper, however, wants to be known as a sheep, but approaches participation with the flock as if it’s optional. Sometimes the question is asked, “Can someone be a Christian but not go to church?” I’m not sure why one would even want to ask such a question. But if we must, I would answer something like, “Sure, you can be a Christian and not go to church. Kind of like a hand severed from an arm can still sort of be a hand; and like a branch broken from a tree can still be a branch; and like a zebra separated from his herd getting eaten by cheetahs can still sort of be a zebra.”
- Resistance to meaningful local church membership.
One of the more prominent issues we see in the church today is a lack of understanding the biblical importance and joy of meaningful local church membership. Many Christians are untaught on the issue. And, it’s one thing to be unaware of the issue, be taught, and then embrace it. It’s quite another, when we study the issue, but, like the Draad Kruiper, refuse the step of obedience in membership so as to stand near the flock but not in it.
The Draad Kruiper wanted to be known as a sheep, but he doesn’t like fences. There’s something about those fences which incite the inner Draad Kruiper in the Draad Kruiper. But, what the spiritual Draad Kruiper needs to embrace is that the visible fence exists because the invisible fence exists. And fences are for great good. They demarcate the shepherds’ highly privileged and exalted task of who to feed and care for. Fences emphasize and mandate care. And fences protect. Because if you are a sheep, and you are, you need protection; protection from self, sin, and Satan.
Becoming a church member is the act of humility where I go from expressing nearness to in-ness. If you are unaware of the importance of meaningful local church membership, consider reading this, this, this, and this.
- Unrepentant complaining about our local churches.
The Draad Kruiper visibly, if not verbally, made a loud, daily statement about his thoughts on the sheepfold. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like things such as the grass, the fold activities, the feeding schedule and methods, the shepherds, the other sheep, and especially not the fence. And how he made it known. But he did not make it known privately and humbly to the shepherds. No. He made it known to all of the sheep daily, as he slithered under the fence, caused a ruckus, and daily and visibly stood there in protest. Consequently, Draad Kruipers will almost always cause disunity within the flock. Their fence crawling is a more noble goal to them than the peace of the flock. Even worse, other less-discerning sheep will become Draad Kruipers, and join the fence-crawling frenzy.
In reality, the Draad Kruiper didn’t like the fact that he was a sheep, the shepherd was a shepherd, and that Someone had designed it that way.
- Refusal to humbly serve in ways that the elders in the church have asked.
The Draad Kruiper had to stand out. He could not be a part of the activities already happening under the care of the appointed shepherds in the fold. He had to be innovative; ground-breaking; inventive. There is nothing wrong with thinking of new things for the fold. But the Draad Kruiper wasn’t so much interested in the fold as he was interested in himself. He prides himself on being a pioneer. Consequently, because the Draad Kruiper will not humbly seek ways to strengthen the existing sheepfold activities, he destabilizes and weakens the flock. He insists on ministries that center around him rather than what is already happening in and through the flock, by the watchful care of the shepherds.
In the end, the Draad Kruiper somewhat enjoyed all of the other sheep seeing him just on the other side of the fence. “Look at me. I can still be a sheep, but I am a sheep standing here, not there.”
If we find ourselves having a bit of Draad Kruiper in us as I have at times, we can humbly confess that to our Chief Shepherd, who laid his life down for the sheep. The Lord Jesus Christ died for those sins, so that we might stand in the infinitely privileged place of righteous, accepted, and inside the care, fulfillment, and protection of his sheepfold. One of the consequential privileges of salvation is meaningful involvement in the local church under the care of qualified, imperfect under-shepherds.