Monday, 28 September 2009

More than just a number

Get a crowd
In Luke 9 v1-17 we read that after the disciples had been given power and authority by Jesus to preach the Kingdom of God and heal the sick, he sent them out in pairs to put what they had received into practice.
In v10 we read that they returned and reported what they had done.
We then read that Jesus took them on a little spiritual retreat to a town called Bethsaida (House of fishing), where it seems a large crowd, stirred by the success of the disciples mission, gathered and were welcomed by Jesus words and actions towards them (v11).
Later in the day the disciples asked for the crowd to be dismissed because they realised that they would need feeding and a place to stay and that both of these things would prove difficult because of the remoteness of the place they were in.

Responsibility of success
However, Jesus challenges them to face the responsibility that goes with the success of ministry and mission and says, ‘You give them something to eat’ v13.

What a great illustration to the Church in 21st century Britain, that there is more to leadership, church life, evangelistic programmes than simply gathering a crowd.
With the success of growth comes the responsibility of care for the needs of those who have gathered.

We see this lesson again in Act 6 where due to the growth of the early church, the needs that arose among the new converts demanded certain actions to be carried out.
New roles were needed and changes in structure were adopted so that the problems that growth caused could be overcome.

Lessons we can learn
So what can we learn from the disciples response in Luke 9 that will help us to carry out Jesus command to care for the present needs of those who join church and not just delight in the ‘numbers game’ or overcome the danger of thinking the crowd is there for us instead of us being there for the crowd!
1. People always come first with God
Not projects, not stuff but people.
Mt 12:20 ‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out’
‘He does not crush the weak, Or quench the smallest hope; TLB

2. Always remember that ‘care’ will always mean cost.
Having looked at what they had (5 loaves and 2 fish) they accepted that they might have to open their own wallets (v13)

3. Care is not the sole responsibility of the leader
Jesus said,’ You give them something to eat’ v13.
Having given thanks it was the disciples that gave it out and collected leftovers.
I wonder what we have got to give Jesus that he can say ‘Thank God, that is just what I can use to help so and so!’

4. Use the effectiveness of small groups (v14).
The Life Groups are a great place to get up close and personal to peoples needs. They help make the problem of the whole manageable.

5. Minister from a place of rest (v15).
Whatever the problems that people have, we at Life Church always need to have confidence that what ever is needed God will provide. Rom 8:32 ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

6. Offer what you have and let God do what only he can do (v16).
Although what you have might not seem enough, with God all things become possible.

7. When you give the help you can you grow in ability to
help others
(v17) 12 baskets leftover

Many years ago there was a TV programme called ‘The Prisoner’, that really popular in the UK.
The plot was set in a village where people were valued not by who they were as a person but by their value to the community. Therefore they had no names, only numbers according to value. The hero’s continued battle was based on his often repeated statement that, ‘I am not a number’.
Today, we can often feel we are just a number because of our continually unheard voice, or ignored individuality, or our unaided needs, sadly even in church.
Here at Life Church we want to make a difference!
Not just in seeing people come to Jesus to find the grace and love he offers but to find a church that cares for them as an individual and not just a number.
This is why our motto is ‘Life Church – Beyond Sundays…’
Like the disciples, we want to see people as more than just someone in the crowd; we see them as those we are commissioned by God to help whatever the problems they have.

So I look forward to seeing you in Life Church in the days between the Sundays where real life is lived.

Pastor Rae