Monday, June 15, 2015

John 6: Church Growth Methods and Other Sins

The Lord Jesus Christ came to save.  For someone to be saved, he must believe in Jesus Christ.  The book of John provides a sufficient basis for someone to believe in Him.  One portion of that basis for belief comes in John 6, where Jesus feeds the 5,000, walks on water, and teaches on the bread of life.

John could have included many other works and teachings of Jesus in his gospel, but he wrote the ones he did as a basis for saving faith in Christ.  Among a relative few, considering a three year long period, John 6 is included and it takes up a lot of space -- 71 verses.  It must be saying something vital and important, so what does it say that contributed to the purpose of John?  By the time you get to the end, you see that John 6 differentiates between the true believer and the false, and in so doing it helps define saving faith in Christ.  As a corollary, it reveals the method of the Lord Jesus and repudiates a wrong one.

We know from parallel gospels that Jesus fed 5,000 men and then women and children, so we could estimate 25,000 from the one little lunch of crackers and fish.  Verse 26 says they were all "filled," which means they were full, ate so much that they couldn't eat any more.  Jesus sent the disciples back to the other side of the sea and didn't go with them, because the crowd would follow, went into the mountain and then followed later by walking on water.  The next day the burgeoning crowd found and followed Jesus.

Jesus could have easily attracted the crowd with more bread, but He didn't.  There is nothing wrong with bread, but Jesus wouldn't use it to gain and keep a crowd, even for "further ministry."  We're not talking about a rock band or cowboy Sunday.  These were people who needed to eat and Jesus could give bread.  He didn't.  Why did Jesus run away from this crowd of people, rather than "take advantage" of their interest in Him? They were following Him for a wrong reason.  Jesus says this in verses 26-27.

Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.  Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. 

That was Jesus in answer in essence to why He was evading them.   They were following Him for the wrong reason, and it was bread.  Bread.

Do you understand that churches today have as their strategy to get people to church for the wrong reason?   They use big days, open houses, food, music, buildings, programs, fun, among other reasons.  A common excuse I hear is, the Bible doesn't say it's wrong.  Jesus didn't just not give them what they wanted, but He was avoiding them.  Today's churches often run to them with the wrong reasons:  "Please take advantage of this wrong reason!"

Bread isn't wrong, so that obliterates that common reason.  I also hear people say, "These people are hungry, which is why we give them a hamburger."  It didn't matter that these people in Capernaum were hungry. Jesus wasn't giving them anything.

Instead of offering the meat that perishes, churches should give alone the meat that endures unto everlasting life.  That meat, that bread, is Jesus.

To be continued


Tyler Robbins said...

Bro. Brandenburg:

You wrote:

"Do you understand that churches today have as their strategy to get people to church for the wrong reason? They use big days, open houses, food, music, buildings, programs, fun, among other reasons."

Do you oppose VBS? What about evangelistic programs with musical ensemble groups? We're having Maranatha's ensemble group in this Summer for an outdoor event on the square in the middle of town. Are you against such events?

Not being hostile; just curious to see where you draw the line between evangelistic events and manipulation.

On a related note, I really think you'd like Chafer's little book "True Evangelism." I've mentioned it before a few times. He spoke out against a lot of the revivalistic, shallow tactics of his day. You'd like a lot of what he wrote in there.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Tyler,

Thanks for the question. Against what I think is the typical purpose of VBS in most churches, especially when you look at their marketing and ad pitch with spacemen and pirates and the like, I think VBS is good as a school for your own kids. It's not an attraction to the lost in other words, but a special time to reinforce the message of the gospel to your own kids, get them more doctrinally founded in the summer, part of your overall plan. We don't have VBS, but we do equip families to have a school in their own home in the summer and use the opportunity to evangelize their neighborhood. They canvas their neighborhood with tracts and then find out of their are other professing Christians there. Some people just don't know you are there. Other families in the church can join these families in their home for the school.

We don't emphasize getting a crowd for these home schools/clubs, but that it is a refresher on certain key points of the gospel. One year on sin. One year on judgment. One year on faith and repentance. One year on Jesus. Like that. The goal is to saturate your own kids with the gospel. It is a time for exhorting and provoking and teaching and admonishing.

A few different times my family has invited everyone in our neighborhood to hear the gospel at our home. We tell them that's what it is. We tell them we're going to talk about what the Bible says. The invitation also has a gospel presentation on the back, but it is to give them an opportunity to come and hear it. There is zero manipulation except to say that we love them and we want them to know the gospel, because everyone needs to be saved. People don't go for it. We had one family come in the last place we lived and they claimed to be already saved, so it was a good review with them and to find out where they were. If everyone in your neighborhood knows who you are, they'll either like seeing you or try to avoid you. Either way, they know what you're about.

A lady two houses down came to my house to have me open her medications she needed for her husband. A family two houses down on the other side of the street brought us vegetables because we always wave when we drive by. That is a black family. The family that come to our house in the previous paragraph for the study was a black family.

Thanks for asking about your event. It's hard to diagnose it, because I don't know what it is, but it sounds like something we would not do. I believe churches need to cut this stuff out. Go out and preach the gospel. Have church be church. Don't use music as an attraction to the lost. Love the gospel. It's great. Act like it is. A concert isn't a biblical method. I could break down all that I think is wrong with it. It is something I did myself a long time ago (20 plus years ago), before I sorted through what Jesus and the Apostles did, so I'm sympathetic to you. Using enticements other than Jesus diminishes Christ. Jesus was against it in John 6. I think this is a good conversation.

I'll look into Chafer's book. Thanks!

Tyler Robbins said...

For our event on the church square, we're having about 30 mins of music followed by a preaching service in the open air. We're billing it as "Church on the Square!" So, there's no mistaking what it is. But, we're intentionally using the ensemble group with their loud, percussion instruments to draw curious folks in, and will have pre-service kids activities as well.

Kent Brandenburg said...

So what do you think of what Jesus did? And the application?

Do you think this is an issue today?

The Preacher said...

" Go out and preach the gospel. Have church be church. Don't use music as an attraction to the lost. Love the gospel. It's great. Act like it is. A concert isn't a biblical method. I could break down all that I think is wrong with it."

Amen to that! PREACH the truth, LIVE the truth, for the truth is the Lord Jesus Christ and quit mixing with the mixed multitude, but rather be ye seperate. Worship music, discipleship, teaching, exhortation, etc. is for the church ONLY. Those that are lost need to be reproved of sin, righteousness and judgment to come, proclaiming the fear of the Lord so that might repent of their sins and receive the love of the truth which is Christ Jesus the Lord.

Everything else is pragmatism and a manipulation of the gospel to trick people like a magician (hiding behind "programs") in mixing pleasure (games, prizes, activities, etc.) and then with the slight of mouth they make the gospel palatable instead of an offense in the heart of a sinner.