Every Sunday Christians from around the world gather together to worship the Lord, be with other believers, pray, and celebrate life together. But there are also other people that show up for other reasons. There are three types of people that show up to church on any given Sunday: sheep, goats, and wolves. It is important to know how to identify each group, analyze their motivations, and how to respond to them.
Sheep are Christians. They follow the Chief Shepherd Jesus Christ. They come to church and want to be there; to worship, fellowship, learn, grow, and disciple others. They are active in ministry all week long, not just on Sundays. They are born again. They are obedient to the Holy Spirit and listen to the advice of the church leadership. You don’t have to force them to read their bible; they do it gladly and don’t have to be pushed and prodded. Sheep can easily stray, and they do stink, but not for long. They feel conviction, and know it’s best to stay in the fold. Read along in 1 Thessalonians chapter 1 regarding what the Apostle Paul says about the model church:
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, [even] Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. - 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 NKJV
The goats are not sheep, therefore they are not Christians; they are not saved. They can cause problems, but that’s not why they are there. They are indifferent to the things of God and church. At best, they are curious as to what the sheep are doing, but for the most part they are there either because someone like their wife or mother made them come. They take no direction, don’t listen to the Spirit – because they don’t have Him; and never or hardly read their bible if they even own one. They think they are a good person, and may even go to church because they think it’s the “right thing to do” or because it makes them feel good.
Read what happens to a goat apart from the sheep:
"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. "All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides [his] sheep from the goats. "And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: ... "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: ... "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." - Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46 NKJV
If you read Matthew 25:31–46, what was the difference between the sheep and the goat? The difference was that the goats were indifferent to the needs around them and did not act upon them. They were indifferent towards Christ’s return, towards the Holy Spirit Who makes us ready, indifferent towards the resources that God gives us, indifferent towards the needy people all around us, and indifferent towards the lost. A Christian should witness to the goats, not only sharing the bad news of hell with them, but also the good news of the gospel. Goats are unbelievers, that pose no direct physical threat to the church, unlike wolves.
Wolves are dangerous: they hate God, Christians, the Church, and the gospel. A wolf has only one purpose in mind – to wreak havoc and eat sheep. They are not indifferent like the goats, they are hostile. Though the goats don’t have good fruit either, whatever fruit they do have is poisonous to sheep. They could be as obvious as someone coming into a fellowship with a gun and start shooting. They could be as subtle as wearing sheep’s clothing, looking like an amazing Christian and behind the scenes spreading disunity, gossip, and slandering the Pastor or Elders. There have been many church splits caused by wolves not being dealt with.
There is only one way to deal with a wolf; grab them by the neck and toss them out of the fellowship. The Apostle Paul handed those who were like wolves over to Satan.
It is actually reported [that there is] sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. - 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 NKJV This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. - 1 Timothy 1:18-20 NKJV
Handing over wolves to Satan is merciful so that Satan would torment and tempt them so badly that they may turn and be saved. They are a cancer that needs to be removed so as to protect the sheep before it metastasizes. Because if you don’t, they will infect the sheep and other parts of the body and they will need to be removed as well. Removing a wolf needs to be done quickly, thoroughly, and all members need to be told to stay away from them.
God’s mercy and forgiveness even extends to the wolves on this side of eternity, but should not be done inside the church for fear of causing harm to the rest of the fold. Any witnessing, evangelism, or work with wolves should be done outside the church, and then introduced to the fellowship a period of time after salvation. If there is a wolf in your fellowship, remove them immediately.