A Watchdog Must Be Gentle

By Steve Klein

The Lord’s church needs watchdogs A watchdog sniffs out doctrinal danger and barks the warning. A watchdog remains alert, capable of recognizing a threat and sounding the alarm The watchdogs of ancient Judah were failures in this respect. The Lord reprimanded Judah because “His watchmen are blind, They are all ignorant; They are all dumb dogs, They cannot bark; Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber” (Isa. 56:10).

Among God’s people today, preachers and elders are especial- ly charged with watchdog duty. As those who rule over churches, elders watch out for your souls, as those who must give account” (Heb. 13:17). The elders of the church in Ephesus were warned of “savage wolves” who would come in among them, not sparing the flock; they were therefore commanded to “watch” (Acts 20:29-31; Tit. 1:9). Similarly, in order to fulfill the ministry of evangelist, a preacher must “convince, rebuke” and “be watchful in all things” (2 Tim. 4:1-5).

Leaders in churches must understand that being a watchdog is a serious responsibility. A watch- man (or dog) is held personally responsible for the damage done when he fails to issue a warning (see Ezek. 33:6-7; Heb. 13:17). We must also realize that the duty to watch and warn extends beyond the borders of the local church. Paul had deep concern for all the churches (2 Cor. 11:28), and if apostolic examples are still worthy of imitation so should we. As a preacher, Titus was to make it his business to stop the mouths of the many false teachers in every city in Crete (Tit. 1:5, 10-14).

But as important as it is to have alert and active watch- dogs, it is just as important for each watchdog to be well trained in every aspect of his job. An untrained, undisciplined, and uncontrolled watchdog is a greater danger than no watchdog at all. In the real world, we sometimes hear of dogs turning on members of the very household they are supposed to be protecting. We have seen TV news footage of children horribly disfigured by attacks from a neighbor’s watchdog. Sadly, the same kind of thing can and does hap- pen in the Lord’s church.

One key attitude or behavioral trait that every watchdog must learn is meekness or gentleness. In 2 Timothy 3:24-25, Paul is training Timothy to be a good watchdog when he tells him that “a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.” Yes, Timothy needed to deal with those who were in error, but he needed to do so with gentleness. A watchdog who is never able to confront danger and warn against it without starting a dog fight is not doing his job correctly.

 Gentleness is an outgrowth of proper attitudes toward oneself and others. With respect to others, the gentle watchdog is acting from motives of genuine love and concern. He knows that biting and devouring another is not consistent with his mission to serve, love and protect (cf. Gal. 5:14-15). If there are enemies, the watch dog lets you know, but it gives his hearers no pleasure. Paul demonstrated the heart of a faithful and loving watchdog when he told the Philippians that “many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18).

With respect to himself the gentle watchdog knows nothing of pride and everything of humility. He is humble because he sees himself as he is. He is, after all, a dog. He knows that he too is fallible, capable of making mistakes and committing sin. As he attempts to correct or restore a brother overtaken in “any trespass” he does so in a spirit of gentleness,” considering himself lest he also be tempted (Gal. 6:1). No matter who he is dealing with, he is “gentle showing  all  meekness  unto  all  men”  because  he  knows that he himself has at one time or another been “foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating” others (Tit. 3:2-3).

Watchdogs are so greatly needed among God’s people today. We need watchdogs who are alert, vigilant, faithful, and gentle. And we need watchdogs who can read an article like this and profit from it, even if it has stepped on their tails.