People are funny. And I’m one of those. If I looked back over the years of preaching I have likely read in the hundreds of different books about how to build a church, how to get one back on track that has gotten off course and how to be contagious as a church. Many of them have been excellent and practical guides on getting people inside the door and help them get involved in the work. The thing that always bugs me is that when I turn from one of these books on church growth or church building to read anyone of the gospel accounts I come away thinking that Jesus didn’t really follow the concepts people tend to emphasize.
Instead of him getting excited because he had a crowd he seemed often to want to get rid of the crowd. If you have any questions on this point go back and read John 6 again. The crowds were anxious to follow him at the beginning of the chapter especially after he fed the 5000 people with a little boy’s lunch. They were so wanting to be around him that they would track him down in a different city the next day. But Jesus challenged them for their motives saying, they weren’t following him because of the signs he was doing but because they liked the food he gave them. They were looking for another free lunch.
Then he began to say things that he knew would be offensive to them. “I am the bread of life.” They wanted bread like the Israelites received in the wilderness. He told them he was the bread that came down from heaven on which they needed to feed. He told them “Unless you eat of my body and drink of my blood you have no part with me.” His cry was, “I didn’t come down from heaven to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” The people began to grumble about his sayings and brought up his parents and city of his youth. Beginning in verse 43 he responded, “Stop grumbling among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.”
Focus on the phrase, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Does this mean we have no responsibility in trying to reach people? No, Jesus also said, “As the Father sent me, I send you.” to the disciples. He gave us the commission to “Go and make disciples in all the nations baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and I will be with you always even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Our job is to teach the gospel, to preach Christ to the world and to live and his disciples among them. It is the Father’s job to use that teaching as a means of drawing them to Him.
It is interesting to notice some of the things that the Bible tells us are God’s job and not ours. In John 15:1-8 Jesus described himself as the true vine and his father as the gardener. He noted that it was the Father’s job to prune the branches so that they could bear more fruit. So one of God’s job’s is to prune the disciples. I wonder how many of the things we complain about regularly are really the actions of God in pruning us so that we can bear more fruit. In Romans 12 Paul said it was God’s job to avenge when we are wronged. “Don’t try to get vengeance yourself. Leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
In I Corinthians 3:5-7 Paul wrote, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord as assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”
It is difficult for us to do our job and allow God to handle his. We want to help him draw people to Him, help him in pruning those who are branches in his vine, help him in repaying those who have wronged us in some way and in making the seed grow after we have planted and watered it. Too often churches and preachers especially take on a load of guilt because they haven’t been able to get people to grow in their faith and devotion to God or they haven’t been able to draw the crowd that someone else in town has. My guess is that God is wanting us to stick to the planting and watering of the seed and trust him to handle the things that are his job to do. I believe we can trust him and his work.
I was never very good at drawing whether we are talking about making a sketch or drawing a gun from its holster. I’m certainly not good at being God and drawing people to him. But he can use me to plant the seed of his word and water those seed regularly. I think I’ll just settle with doing that.