How to Kill Church Growth
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 6:68-69)
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is from John chapter 6 where we find Jesus teaching some really difficult things. But we have to set the scene in order to really appreciate the impact of Jesus’ words. At the beginning of the chapter we are told that Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish to be able to feed a crowd of over five-thousand men, women, and children. The next morning, when the people wake up, they realize Jesus has gone to the other side of the Sea of Galilee and so they all climb into boats and follow Jesus to the other side. When they arrive, Jesus tells them plainly that they are not seeking him because they believe he is the Messiah, “but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (v.26). Nevertheless, Jesus has a captive audience and so he intends to use this opportunity to teach them about himself and his purpose. Thus, he says to them that he is the true bread that has come down from heaven and that anyone who eats this bread will live forever. But as if that were not confusing enough, he then goes on to say, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." This really began to upset the Jews who exclaimed, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus continues: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” Jesus continues with this line of teaching until we eventually read in v.66, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 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.’” In an instant, Jesus goes from having a following of five-thousand to standing there with just the twelve disciples. What we learn from this scene, in the words of theologian Michael Horton, is that “it is far better to have twelve disciples than to have five-thousand consumers.”
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