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Previous Message From Virtual Church

The Secret and The Sheep Farmer

Joe was an excellent student in school. He graduated at the top of his class in both high school and college. His favorite book was "Winning by Intimidation" and his favorite saying was "Takin' Care Of Number One!". When he graduated from college, he took a job as a stockbroker trainee with a top line financial firm. A year later he was fired because even though his client's portfolios did well, clients moved to other brokers at other firms. He didn't understand but moved on.

A little wiser for the experience Joe moved on to a public relations position with a well-known New York PR firm. He was the most creative and inventive member of the firm. He was determined, aggressive and voluntarily worked overtime each week. Although his campaigns were some of the most creative in the agency, they all failed. His direct mail pieces were outstanding in the creative sense, but they pulled no response. His television ads were hilariously funny, but did not pull in new customers for clients. A year and a half after starting he was let go. He didn't understand but moved on.

With his reputation for being creative and inventive, a computer company hired him to resurrect a faltering chain of retail computer stores in the Midwest. He assembled a creative mix of sales flyers, print and television ads, and a price competitive product mix. A year later he was let go because the retail chain wasn't just faltering. They were now in deeper financial water than before because their heavy investment in the ad and PR campaign had failed to produce adequate sales. He didn't understand but moved on.

He then went to work for the employment division of a large utility. The firm hired him to reduce their turnover. He was aggressive and was not hesitant to shake things up and make changes. Instead of reducing the firm's turnover the turnover increased. Embarrassingly, the turnover increased in the employment division. He was quietly terminated. He didn't understand but moved on.

The next position was not so easy to get. He interviewed with several firms. All expressed interest but after checking his background all seemed to cool off. Six months of unemployment began to shake his confidence. Finally, as a last resort, he took a job as a set-up assistant to a trade show sales rep. He set up high tech demonstration equipment at trade shows for the top sales representative in the company. He was instructed to talk to no one except the sales rep during the time the shows were underway. The first few weeks went smooth but were boring. He had no friendship with the sales rep but they did talk. At first, he paid little attention to what the sales rep did or how he did it. His schedule was intense, traveling from one city to the next doing trade show exhibit set-ups and tear-downs. He had no friends. Young women seemed uninterested in his stories about himself. As time passed, he did get interested in how the sales rep made so many sales. The sales rep was not aggressive, talkative, overbearing, pushy, or flashy. If he was anything at all, the rep was meek, quiet, caring, and humble. There were some sales made where all the sales rep did was listen to the potential customer, complete an order form, and had the customer sign the form. As they were flying to the next city for the next trade show Joe finally asked the sales rep how he did it. The sales rep asked what he meant and Joe said, "How do you make all those sales? You are not the sales type. You don't pressure anybody but most of them buy new equipment. How do you do it?" The sales rep smiled and said "I learned the secret of life and the secret of making sales from a sheep farmer in the Midwest." Joe was a little stunned at the answer and sarcastically replied, "Yeah, right." The sales rep said, "No, I'm serious. When I was starting out, I had all kinds of trouble making sales. Just by accident, I met this sheep farmer. One day I went out to his farm and what I saw was amazing. His sheep were as tame as a dog or cat. He had a large flock and he had named every sheep. What is most amazing is every sheep knew its name. I don't know how he could tell them apart. They all looked alike to me. He would talk to them just like you and I talk. I don't know how smart sheep are but I would swear they all understood him. When he walked out to the pasture where they were grazing, they would run over to him as soon as he appeared. He would say 'Follow me' and they would all get behind him except for a few stragglers. He would rub their ears and chin, talk to them, and they loved it. He even had a greenhouse where he grew green grass to give them as a treat during the winter months. I asked him how he got them to be so tame and he gave me the secret. The secret is that you have to give to them and never worry about whether they will give anything back. He said you don't worry about whether they give anything back because they probably won't…they are just sheep. He learned that no matter what he wanted them to do they were only going to do what he wanted if he gave them attention, the right food and water at the right time, and let them know he cared about them. He swore that sheep were mind readers. He said they could tell what kind of mood he was in by reading his mind. The sheep were always number one with this guy. It sounds a little goofy but he loved his sheep and his sheep loved him. If I didn't know better, I think he would die to protect their lives if he had too. I don't know whether what he said is true or not, but what I do know is true is that I have to be unselfish to be a successful human being. His whole secret was being totally unselfish toward his sheep. He is also the same way with the people he meets. Now, as far as I am concerned, if the only person you look out for is yourself, the other people who are only looking out for themselves will eat you alive because they outnumber you. You have to be a kind, caring, giving person if you want to get ahead. I learned that giving just to get something back won't work either because people are mind readers like the sheep. I use all the sheep farmer's methods except for the rubbing of the ears and chins." Joe smiled but remained silent and stared out the window at the billows of clouds below the plane. Somehow, Joe felt a part of himself slipping away. Finally, he turned to the sales rep and said, "I still don't get it. If you don't look out for yourself, who will do it? If I don't take care of myself, no one else is going to do it for me. I am not a sheep farmer." The sales rep nodded his head in agreement and said, " I started out thinking the same way. We are all sheep farmers in one way or another. I know you have had job problems. If you go back and analyze what you did and how you did it you will probably find you did not think of your customers or clients in a kindly unselfish way as a sheep farmer thinks of his sheep. In the sales business, or any endeavor of life, when you ignore the needs of the flock you are trying to reach, you will surely fail. The sheep farmer doesn't know anything about the kind of equipment we work with but he knows sheep and he knows people. In this world, you can be creative, inventive, aggressive, hard working, and know a lot about technology but if you ignore people you are dead meat. The strangest thing about the sheep farmer was that he said all he knew about handling sheep was learned from the Bible."

Joe was hungry for answers about why he had so many job problems. As he thought about it, maybe the sheep farmer was right. Maybe you have to take care of others or put others first instead of yourself. This was earthshaking stuff for Joe. As they walked down the ramp after the plane landed Joe turned to the sales rep and said "I'll see you tomorrow at 10:00 A.M. at the exhibition hall." By 10:00 A.M. the exhibit was set up. The sales rep walked up just as the doors opened and people started roaming through the exhibits. The sales rep turned to Joe and said "Wanna make a sale? Come over here and sit down and handle some inquiries. I have calls to make back to the home office and need to find some coffee." Joe didn't say anything and just sat down at the table. The sales rep walked away and a potential customer walked up. Joe stood up, shook hands, introduced himself, and asked "How can I help you?" Two hours and two sales later the sales rep returned. Joe was in a state of stunned euphoria at his success. The sales rep said "O.K., what did you do?" Joe replied, "Well, I don't really know. I just focused on helping them instead of trying to get them to help me." The sales rep smiled and said, "I think you have finally got the right stuff kid."

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

John 10 1"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. 7Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.A He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018