(Mark 6:35-44) The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand men gives us six church growth principles.
What we see determines what we receive. Vision determines provision!
“Then a great multitude followed Him because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.” (John 6:2) The multitudes were following Jesus because they saw His miracles. To them, the miracles were almost like a spiritual sideshow. Their limited vision caused them to miss the greatest miracle that Jesus was their Messiah. But even though they came for the wrong reasons, Jesus still healed their diseases, fed them, and pointed them toward God.
This was the same reason the Israelites failed to trust God after being delivered from their slavery in Egypt. “Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works for forty years. Therefore, I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’” (Hebrews 3:9-10) The multitude like their forefathers saw the miracles but failed to understand the God who worked the miracles. In the same way, the multitudes saw Jesus’s miracles of healing but failed to see He was their Savior.
“His disciples came to Him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and buy themselves bread;’” (Mark 6:35-36) The disciples were looking at the wrong things. They focused on the problems of dry dirt, empty stomachs, and the late hour. Because they only looked at the problems, the problems overwhelmed them. We can’t build an atmosphere of faith by looking at problems.
Our churches can’t grow if we’re wanting people to leave. Most of us would be too nice to directly ask others to leave, but our attitude shows. Visitors quickly discern if we have an inviting attitude or if we’re only tolerating those who dare invade our church. Every visitor should feel special, like a guest of honor; not an intruder.
“Jesus said to them, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’” Matthew 14:16) Don’t make excuses why we can’t help them. Jesus gave the disciples the responsibility of finding a way to meet the needs of the multitude. What do we see in the multitude, a problem or the potential for a miracle?
“And Jesus, when He came out saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion toward them because they were like sheep having no shepherd.” (Mark 6:34) Because Jesus saw a different picture than the disciples, He responded in a completely different manner. He was moved with compassion toward them. The word “compassion” means to feel what someone else is feeling. We must never forget the pain of being without God, sick and hungry. Jesus felt the pain of the multitude and wanted to help them. He realized it was their desperation that caused them to follow Him into a deserted area. They were looking for answers to their problems.
The disciples were indifferent to the suffering of the multitude and wanted them to leave. Even their presence was troubling because they saw them as a huge problem. We must beware of our churches become exclusive rather than inclusive. We make it more and more difficult for people to become a part of our exclusive club. Many churches justify themselves for their bad attitudes by claiming they are trying to be holy and saying they don’t want the church to become defiled, but Jesus was never afraid of someone’s sin contaminating Him. He always looked for opportunities to redeem them. Jesus felt more at ease with sinners than self-righteous people. We deceive ourselves when we make excuses why we don’t find ways to reach out to hurting people. The purpose of our existence is to help them.
Jesus has provided us with the resources we need to feed the multitude. We must not send them away but start looking for ways to feed them. This is our moment, our opportunity. We must not claim we don’t have enough resources to help them; we know Jesus. Without Jesus, every person is like sheep without a shepherd. We must find ways to introduce them to Jesus. God will help us if we’re sincere enough to search for answers. Don’t make the mistake the disciples made of giving up on the multitude.
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