(Mark 6:35-44) The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand men gives us six church growth principles.
Churches won’t grow if we aren’t willing to pay the price to fix the things which are wrong. Jesus prepared to feed the multitude by locating a large grassy area. What was important about the grass? People don’t like to eat their food sitting in the dirt. As leaders, we must plan in order to avoid potential problems.
Every church needs large groups. We have a God-given desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves. We have a desire for significance, that our life really counts. The large group helps bring that feeling into our lives. We realize we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.
The large group is good for casting vision. It is good for motivating people. The large group is designed to stimulate our emotions. We leave the meeting feeling energized. We feel like we’ve won. This is the reason ballgames attract large groups of people. When their team wins; they feel like they’ve won.
As important as large groups are, they can’t meet all our needs. We leave the large group feeling lonely. No one knows our name. Interestingly, the larger the group, the lonelier we feel. The loneliest people in the world live in large cities. They hide behind locked doors. The larger the group grows, the more important the small group becomes. The multitudes were important to Jesus because they represented people, but Jesus recognized the limitations of large groups.
The organization goes against the natural order of things. In nature, things deteriorate. Life tends to become more and more disorderly. It tends to become disorganized. We must work smarter at keeping our lives orderly and developing better systems of communication and organization.
A small group is a small group, is a small group. Small groups always act like small groups. It doesn’t matter what we may call them, they all respond in the same ways. We lead large groups by standing upfront and challenging the people. We lead small groups by sitting in a circle and joining the group. Every small church consists of two or three small groups of people who care for each other. They meet personal needs very well but fail to bring significance because they are small.
Jesus told the disciples, “Make them all sit down in groups.” (Mark 6:39) Notice He told them to make them sit down. How do we make people do things which go against the natural order of things? By showing them the value of the organization. We must show them the benefits. Everybody likes to eat! Especially if they are hungry. We need to paint clear word pictures to show them what is going to happen. We are preparing to serve some delicious fish sandwiches, but we can’t serve you standing together in a crowd of five thousand.
We can’t feed five thousand, but we can feed fifty. It’s in the small group where personal needs are met and leadership training takes place. It’s where we get fed. But small groups without large groups have no significance, and it is why so many people fail to see the value of their lives.
Interestingly, small groups leave us without significance but feeling self-centered. The smaller the group, the greater we sense our personal presence. There seems to be a phycological response to our lack of perceived value. In the small group where everyone knows my name and listens to me. We begin to have an elevated opinion of ourselves. We become spoiled and begin to think this group belongs to us. This is my church, or this is my ministry. We forget that we are only one small part of what God is doing, building The Kingdom of God.
Every church needs both large and small groups. Large churches need to organize themselves in such a way that the personal needs of their people are met. Without organizing themselves into small groups, hurting hungry people hide in the lonely shadows.
Small churches need to join groups larger than themselves to bring significance into their people’s lives. Without helping them join large groups we leave them like emotionally spoiled children, thinking only of themselves and leaving a hungry world dying all around us.