Adoring crowds – and ministry success

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“Our worship attendance has grown from 100 to 500 in just the last year.” “We have over 75 kids in the youth group.”

Numbers. They’re the currency of ministry. The crowd has become the definition of ministry success.

But if crowds indicate success and effectiveness, Jesus’ ministry was a bust. The crowds turned out to see this famous guy. They sometimes assembled in large numbers to hear an inspiring word or glimpse a miracle. They lined the streets on Palm Sunday like fans at a Hollywood red-carpet awards show.

But a week later the adoring crowds turned away.

Jesus’ true effectiveness, his real disciples, did not come from the crowds. He changed the world through his personal interaction with a small number.

It’s likely true for you too. You have the power of the resurrected Christ within you to change lives. One by one. Who will in turn change other lives. One by one.

People in ministry are all about encouraging faith. That’s not a crowd thing. You don’t mass-produce faith. It’s an individual thing, a relational thing.

We tell our Lifetree Cafe branches that it’s not about the numbers. It’s about the narratives. When thinking and talking about this ministry, we urge leaders to tell the stories about what God is doing in people’s lives. Don’t focus on the numbers. Focus on the narratives.

I received an email this morning from Katie, a volunteer at a Lifetree in Indiana. She told her story of sitting with three new people from the community. She raved about how the experience “steered the conversation. They asked questions left and right about my faith.” She told how she shared her faith story, in a very natural way, with these curious new friends.

God worked through Katie. Not through a crowd. But through a faithful disciple who engaged in a natural conversation with three wanderers who trusted her with their questions.

Take time today to celebrate your Jesus-inspired success. Not in the size of the crowd. But in the individuals God has placed around you.

Thom Schultz –

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“People in ministry are all about encouraging faith. That’s not a crowd thing. You don’t mass-produce faith. It’s an individual thing, a relational thing.”

The above comment, from Thom Schultz, posted on the ‘My Christian Daily‘ web-site, gives us a timely reminder of true Christian evangelism. Rather than a self-appointed spiritual guru, the propagation of the Gospel requires a team of Christ-centred servants, whose own lives of dedication to evangelism are closely bound to their imitation of the Lord they proclaim.

The Big-Band, Big Tent, idealization of the bringer of the Good News, is antithetical to the ethos and culture of the Gospel Message; which is to proclaim Christ’s ministry as the Servant King. In the course of that ministry, the God/man Jesus pointed beyond himself to the Father, whose will he was intent on obeying – even unto death. The glory of Christ lay in his sacrificial life, and his life-giving death and resurrection.

Triumphalism was never a characteristic exhibited by Jesus. His riding on a donkey into the city of Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday gives evidence of this: “He was humbler yet – even to death, death on a Cross”. On the matter of self-advertisement, Saint Paul had this to say: “God forbid that I should glory – save in the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ; through whom the world is dead to me and I to the world”.

Mass evangelism can occur only in situations where its promoters are totally dedicated to the God they have been called to serve. The agency of that evangelism is none other than the Spirit of God. “Those whom God calls, God equips”. Words alone can never convict a person to faith in the God they seek. There has to be some evidence of a deep connection – between the messenger and the Message – that needs to be personal and convincing, in order for the Gospel seed to be produced and sewn in fertile soil: “By their fruits you will know them!”

Each seed of faith  is sewn separately, bearing fruit by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in an individual life. That life can then be nurtured in the community of faith – and that is where the Church, the Body of Christ, begins to grow. “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord”. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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