Scripture

A Surefire Way to Shrink Your Church

I’ve been rediscovering Jesus in my devotional reading of John’s gospel. I am continually amazed at how Scripture can speak differently into my life at different seasons. When I discipline myself to ruminate the rest of the day on what God shows me in the quiet of the morning, I am always blessed to discover more and more about God and myself and the world around me.

Some have claimed that Jesus would not have been a good church planter, for he was always saying things that drove people away from, instead of to, himself. One day he feeds thousands of people who were listening to him preach, so they return the following day anticipating another free meal.

I remember going to church as a kid for the same reason. When I was about 13, I’d had enough of church, as had my older brother. We decided we wouldn’t go anymore. But to get us to church, my mother employed both punishment and reward systems simultaneously. If we didn’t go, we’d have to mow the lawn. If we did, then she’d take us to lunch. Eventually even the free lunches couldn’t beckon us to a three-hour Pentecostal worship service.

Back to Jesus and the hungry people …

He knew what they were wanting, but he also knew what they needed. John records in chapter six some out-there things Jesus spoke. At times the people grumbled. At times they were confused. They’d come hungry for more fish and bread, and Jesus was talking to them about eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

“Cover the children’s ears! What is this lunatic saying?!”

They’d had enough of his abstract talk.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” –John 6:60 ESV

Now, Jesus had many followers, many disciples. There were the Twelve, of course, but also many more. Jesus’ graphic sermon that day resulted in the drastic reduction of his church, which seemed to be his intent.

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. — John 6:66 ESV

In the red ink of my Bible there are “hard sayings,” some of which I don’t understand and others that I do but wished I didn’t since I might be held accountable for what I did with them. But unlike many of Jesus’ followers who left that day with empty bellies and unfulfilled dreams of a nationalistic Messiah, I want to continue to walk with Jesus. As Peter did.

So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” –John 6:67-69 ESV

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