What Jesus teaches us about church growth

I don’t know how well Jesus would fit in as a guest speaker at one of our church growth seminars.

Luke starts one story about Jesus with these words: “Now great crowds accompanied him . . .” (14:25).

That sounds encouraging, doesn’t it?

After all, Jesus came to offer salvation to everyone in the world, so it seems that big crowds would’ve delighted him.

We certainly like numbers. We count every head and post the results on an attendance board. We track the numbers and scratch our heads when they go down and pat our backs when they go up.

We especially like it when they go up.

But something about the big crowds bothered Jesus, so he turned and faced them:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

How’s that for a church attendance punch-in-the-gut?

I can almost see Peter pushing his way toward the front of the crowd gesturing frantically for Jesus to change his sermon topic. Doesn’t he know that’ll push people away?

Maybe the reason for Jesus’ odd approach lies in two key words in this passage. Here are the two verses together . . . read them again carefully:

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (emphasis added).

Perhaps there’s a difference between accompanyingJesus and following him (which is what “disciple” means).

Maybe Jesus looked into the hearts of the big crowd of folks and recognized that they weren’t really interested in discipleship. Many of them were just hangers-on who hoped to get some of the fringe benefits of being in the same vicinity as the Lord . . . they had either seen or heard about his feeding, healing, and helping thousands of people, and they hoped he would do something miraculous for them.

What about us?

Are we accompanying Jesus or following him?

Are we tagging along with the church crowd as long as it makes us feel good, or are we really following Jesus?

There’s a huge difference.

Jesus is saying that discipleship means something much more than having your name in a church directory. It means putting him and his kingdom above all else, including family.

I’m guessing Jesus’ words on this particular day put a dent in the attendance numbers.

But he’s looking for more than just attendance, mereaccompaniers.

He’s looking for disciples.

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