Creed Screed: Is Bigger Always Better?
By Paul Leavens
Mark 6 records the feeding 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. Twelve basketfuls of leftovers were collected. But Mark 8 relates an occasion when Jesus fed 4,000 people with seven loaves. This time when all had eaten, only seven basketfuls were left over.
Was Jesus a poor showman? A performer always moves from the lesser to the greater, from the easy to the more difficult. A magician saves his most dramatic and spellbinding trick for the last. A circus entertainer saves the most death defying act for the grand finale. Fireworks always conclude with the loudest and most spectacular display. That’s the way you impress and maintain a crowd.
Why did Jesus follow up the feeding of 5,000 by feeding only 4,000 people a miracle we hardly ever mention? I think the chronology of this event is deliberate and significant. Jesus did not come to be a bread Messiah. He didn’t intend to gather a fickle crowd who followed him for free lunches. He wasn’t drawing people to the spectacular. He was calling them to a lifetime of self-denial and service.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry Satan tempted him to jump off the temple and allow the angels to catch him. People would come out to see a spectacular stunt like that. They would be impressed with a death defying leap from the temple. But Jesus refused. He knew that today’s spectacular is tomorrow’s commonplace. A high dive from the temple would draw a crowd temporarily, but the degree of difficulty would have to be increased in a few weeks or people would get bored and leave.
The Pharisees didn’t understand that. They asked Jesus for a sign from Heaven to prove he was the Messiah. They’d seen a few people healed, maybe they’d witnessed the feeding of the 4000, but they were ready for something really impressive – how about moving one of the stars, or making the sun stand still? Then they’d believe. Jesus signed and asked, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sigh? I tell you the truth, no sigh will be given to it” (Mark 8:11, 12). If they didn’t believe by now, they never would.
That’s a lesson we need to remember. The church isn’t in the entertainment business. We’re calling people to become disciples of Jesus Christ. That means this years’s Easter service doesn’t have to be more spectacular than last year’s. Next year’s Christian program doesn’t have be to more dramatic than the last one. This week’s sermon doesn’t have to more emotional than last week’s. The preacher doesn’t need to hit a home run every Sunday. This year’s attendance doesn’t have to be more than a year ago for the church to be fulfilling God’s will.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church.”
What did Jesus have in mind when He said, “my church”?
I have been a minister over 45 years. I had a couple of opportunities to go to a big church. But I chose to go to smaller churches. I think that’s what the Lord had in mind. Small churches everywhere. I love small church’s. Because small churches can do things big churches cannot do. Get close to each other in Church. The small church can have a potluck dinner. The best food and fellowship on the face of the earth. And progressive dinner where we go from home to home for different parts of the meal.
Big churches can’t do that. They are too big. We have small groups that pray for each other every week. In the small church you get to know everybody, it becomes a family you care for each other you pray for each other. In a small church you are aware when someone is not there. The small church is a good witness to the neighborhood. When someone dies in a small church great compassion is given to the family. Small churches support other church’s programs. Where big churches want you to support what they are doing.
When Luana and I were on vacation, we visited a very big church. Impressive building, big crowd. But the music was so loud I could not hear the singers. And everybody around me was not singing either, I assume they didn’t know the song. it seem like 7-11 music, it’s singing seven words 11 times. It also surprised me, the 20 minute sermon was about what he is doing and not doing. When the sermon was over, the minister just walked out the back door, he didn’t great people, he’s gone out of sight. There was no invitation of any kind. No he didn’t have another worship service. That was the end.
What is my point? Bigger is not always better.
- Do you ever catch yourself seeking bigger thrills instead of simply being satisfied with what God is doing in your life? In your church?
- Do you drive by small churches to a bigger church because your thinking bigger is better?
Dr. Paul Leavens is minister of the Christian Church in Lindsay, 120 N. Frazier Ave. To contact him, call 559-562-3743 or visit www.lindsaychristianchurch.org.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.