Bill Donahue tells of a lesson he learned while visiting a farm where two of his students lived. When their father, Tom, asked if Bill would help call in the sheep, Bill enthusiastically agreed. Sheep calling was like preaching, he thought, as he watched twenty-five sheep graze.

“Go ahead,” Tom dared Bill. “Call them in.”

“What do you say?” Bill asked.

“I just say, ‘Hey, sheep! C’mon in!’ ”

No sweat, Bill thought. A city kid with a bad back and hay fever could do this. He began speaking, but Tom interrupted. “You are seventy-five yards away, downwind, and they have their backs to you. Yell! Use your diaphragm, like they teach you in preaching class.”

Bill took a deep breath and put every inch of stomach muscle into a yell that revival preachers around the world would envy: “Hey, sheep! C’mon in!” The blessed creatures didn’t move. Not one even turned an ear.

Tom smiled sarcastically. “Do they teach you the Bible in that seminary? Have you ever read, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me’?” Raising his voice only slightly, he said, “Hey, sheep! C’mon in!” All twenty-five sheep turned and ambled toward Tom.

“Now, don’t you ever forget,” Tom said to Bill. “You are the shepherd to my kids.”

—Based on Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson, Building a Church of Small Groups (Zondervan, 2001
Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (397–398). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.