“As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” John 6:66
I met an African Pastor about 15 years ago who said to me, “If someone says they want to be a Pastor then God is probably not calling them or they are out of their mind. If you can do anything else then do that.” What a gift of encouragement. Fifteen years later I can say I truly understand what this Pastor was trying to say to me. To deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus is all too real. I had no idea 15 years ago that it would mean denying everything about myself for what every other person would want of me.
This verse in John’s Gospel as well as the context it is taken from reveal so much about ministry in today’s church. Those going into ministry would do well to learn these things up front. But, like me, they would not believe it and because we didn’t yet know what Jesus knew, “there is no life,no resurrection without death, without crucifixion.” You only learn this by loving the Father and those whom He loves so much that you will allow them to crucify you in order to show them life and love at the risk of them maybe not ever seeing it.
By human standards and much of our standard related to church success today, Jesus was a failure. But Jesus knew it was what His Father said that mattered. In John 6:66 all of Jesus’ disciples except the 12 looked at Him and said this is too tough, we cannot follow you anymore. Jesus was so secure in His Father’s business that He didn’t go chasing after them to change their minds. He simply obeyed His mission.
The context is interesting. Jesus has fed the 5000+ people by the sea of Galilee and then later the disciples went ahead of Him to the other side in a boat. Jesus came walking out to them on the water and then they miraculously found themselves on the other side. That next day when the people realized Jesus and the disciples were gone, they went and found them. Jesus makes an accusation toward them. “I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” John 6:26
Jesus was saying, “you are not following Me because you believe in Me but because I fed you.” These are the people who turned and left Him. In the same manner we find these same people or the like, praising Him on Palm Sunday and crucifying Him on Good Friday.
We have to be careful that in all our searching to find the Church and a place to be fed, that we not miss the church all together. We can totally miss the point. And if I were judging by appearance the success of Jesus’ church at this point, I would say by a 5000+/- drop in attendance by His disciple would be an utter failure. And, 50 days after they had crucified Him only 120 could be found.
What really is the point? The enemy of the Church loves for us to miss the point. When we get our eyes on ourselves we miss the point that it’s about others and our relationship with them and our relationship with the Father. The enemy wants us to blame our Pastors who sacrifice for them in ways they will never realize. Our Pastors cannot take up the responsibility of every christian to build each other up in love and do their part so the church grows. (Ephesians 4:11-16) We can only teach and encourage the body to do so. The enemy loves to instill fear and division in the Church. It renders us ineffective and many times his instrument.
The enemy wants us to think like the world when we look at the Church. He tempts us to believe that God is not in something if it’s declining and not growing the way we believe. Tell that to Job. And for most of us that would make our personal lives utter failures.
We must rise above these things and be the glorious Church that Christ died and lives for. The Church grows based on what the body does to build each other up in love. Bless those who serve you, reach out to those far from you. Judge not on the outward appearance. Love never fails when we love like Jesus.
NOW. Let me be personal and for those who may read this and are of another congregation be encouraged where God has you. We have been going through difficult and painful times as a Church. No one knows that more that me, my family and our leaders. It has been an incredible test for us all. But, God showed me He was going to do this, of which I have shared on several occasions. And, He also showed what He was going to do when this painful part was complete. I have no alternative as a believer and a Pastor but to trust and follow Him even if many people leave. To obey is better than sacrifice. In this case, “the sacrifice.” Some have not and will not take this journey. This I understand.
But, I don’t want to be just another Church; I want to be a different kind of Church. One that will lay it’s life down for it’s neighbor. One that will seek to save that which is lost. One that is willing to go wherever the lost is not waiting for them to come to us. A Church that is intentional about building relationships with lost people in order to know them and love them not just in our Church but where they are. One that will love the way the Bible say. One that loves God by serving and ministering to others.
The Bible tells us that God’s kind of love Never Fails. If it fails, it’s wasn’t love. My commitment as a Pastor endures. I believe in God and His plan for us as a Church more than the darkness that seems to surround and makes seeing where I’m going difficult. I trust Him more than what I see in man. God will not fail us. He is true to His Word and what He says is more important than what we want. What He says will not return empty but will accomplish what He desires.
I would ask you to be more committed to each other than ever before. I would also ask you to support those who have sacrificed to serve you for many years with no expectation but obedience to God’s Word your friendship and your love. I would ask you to not give up hope.
Please, take the time to read this article, (We can’t do megachurch anymore.) CLICK HERE
I know this is long but I believe it is important.