(Mark 6:35-44) The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand men gives us six church growth principles.
The largest group of almost every church is the people who used to attend their services. There are many reasons why this is so, but we must find ways to close the back door.
In their broken condition, people are always looking for a person or a group of people who can fix their problem. This is the main reason people run from church to church and from one relationship to another.
The truth is they’re looking the wrong way. They’re looking outside themselves for answers when God wants to reveal the answers inside them. There’s no church or person who can meet all our needs. People cannot take the place of God. They can only point us in the right direction. We need God to reveal the answers inside our lives. We need to be transformed into the person God created us to be.
It’s our responsibility as spiritual leaders to find these broken searching people before they leave and help redirect their attention to God. Jesus said, “Gather up the fragments that remain so that nothing be lost.” (John 6:12) Again Jesus said, “Of all those whom You gave Me I have lost none.” (John 18:8) We must be careful not to lose those to whom God has entrusted us.
When the disciples finished feeding the multitude, Jesus gave them a new assignment of finding and gathering up the fragments of bread leftover. Jesus was concerned about what other people would’ve called scraps. Everyone has value. We must learn to treat each person with respect. We must never become careless with the miracles God gives us. The fragments were the overlooked and unwanted pieces of bread hidden among the multitude. The disciples gathered them into baskets before the multitude trampled them into the dirt. It’s our responsibility to find them and place them in a safe place before they’re destroyed.
The broken person hides quietly in the crowd and no one realizes when they slip away. They’re gone before we know it. In the small group, we know each person by name and quickly realize when they’re struggling and focus our attention on them. We can catch them before they fall. We must not wait until the multitude disperses or the moment to rescue them will be lost.
We must be aware that because of their pain, many times hurting people will attack us. It’s similar, to trying to help an injured dog only to get bit by the dog we were trying to help. We must not take their attacks personally and wish they would leave. Our churches will never grow with that type of attitude. We must find ways to help them.
Churches don’t grow because people don’t believe we care about them. One of the biggest challenges for a leader is convincing people we really care. Because of their painful insecurities they don’t see value in their lives and think they are a burden to others. We must show them that every life adds value.
Healing was an important part of Jesus’ ministry. There are people among us who are gifted with mercy. They have a special gift in helping to hurt people. They may not be the best person to lead the healing ministry, but they must be a part of it. The gift of mercy is God-given compassion. These people are extremely sensitive in detecting when someone is struggling. It’s like they have a radar system that identifies hurting people. As leaders we need to allow these people to utilize their gift of mercy, so we don’t overlook the hurting people hiding in the crowd.
We must turn our churches into circles of love that embrace people’s needs. We must reach out to them in love and show them how much we care about them. Love will cause them to draw closer rather than pull away. Because the disciples were obedient and faithful, they ended up with more bread and fish than they started. If we’re faithful, our churches will grow through follow-up.