How Jesus Attracted Crowds
I Corinthians 9:22) [TLB] Enormous crowds followed him wherever he went.
Mark 12:37) [TLB] The large crowd listened to him with delight.
Jesus drew enormous crowds. Thousands came to hear Him speak, even though they had now cars to cover the distance. When Jesus fed the 5000 there were probably 10-20,000 people there, including the women and children.
Rick challenges us that if we minister the way Christ did we will draw crowds today.
What did Jesus do to attract crowds:
1. He loved them.
2. He met their needs.
3. He taught them in interesting and practical ways.
Jesus Attracted Crowds by Loving Unbelievers:
Jesus loved lost people and loved spending time with them. It was obvious that He enjoyed being with seekers than He did the religious crowd.
Luke 7:34) [GW] The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! He’s a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
Loving unbelievers like Jesus did: Rick says that loving unbelievers the way Jesus did is the most overlooked way of growing a church. If we don’t love the lost the way Jesus did we will be unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to reach them.
The command to love is the most repeated command in the New Testament; it appears at least 55 times.
1John 4:8) [MSG] The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love–so you can’t know him if you don’t love.
If we don’t love people nothing else matters. When Pastor Warren asks those he baptizes what attracted them to their church family they never responded, “It was because of your doctrine,” or, “It was because of your beautiful church buildings,” or, It was your full calendar of activities.” Rather, the most common response was, “I felt an incredible spirit of love toward me that drew me in.”
Rick points out that he knows of lots of churches where the members love each other and have great fellowship, but that the fellowship has become so tight that newcomers are unable to break into it. These churches don’t attract unbelievers because they don’t love them.
All churches think they are a loving church. That’s because the people who think it’s unloving aren’t there.
Matthew 5:46-48) [GNB] Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that!
47) And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that!
48) You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Romans 5:6-8) [TEV] For when we were still helpless, Christ died for the wicked at the time that God chose.
7) It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person.
8) But God has shown us how much he loves us — it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!
It’s easy to love our friends and family, but Jesus loved us before we were lovable. He calls us to walk the walk He walked.
1John 2:5-10) [GNB] But if we obey his word, we are the ones whose love for God has really been made perfect. This is how we can be sure that we are in union with God:
6) if we say that we remain in union with God, we should live just as Jesus Christ did.
7) My dear friends, this command I am writing you is not new; it is the old command, the one you have had from the very beginning. The old command is the message you have already heard.
8) However, the command I now write you is new, because its truth is seen in Christ and also in you. For the darkness is passing away, and the real light is already shining.
9) If we say that we are in the light, yet hate others, we are in the darkness to this very hour.
10) If we love others, we live in the light, and so there is nothing in us that will cause someone else to sin.
Creating an atmosphere of acceptance: Rick says that plants need the right climate to grow, and so do churches. Growing churches love; loving churches grow. It seems obvious, says Rick. If we want our church to grow then we have to be nice to them when they show up. Saddleback sends every first time visitor a “Thanks for being our guest” letter. They include a postage-paid postcard with 3 questions on it. They have them mail it back anonymously so the answers will be more truthful.
Here are the 3 questions:
1. What did you notice first?
- What did you like best?
- What did you like least?
After receiving thousands of those postcards back, around 90% of the answers to that first question are some variation of this statement, “I noticed the warmth and friendliness of the people.”
Even if a church genuinely loves the unchurched, and feels compassionate towards them, if that love isn’t expressed in a way that the visitor can understand it, then they might not feel loved. Saddleback has intentional ways they demonstrate that love towards each visitor. In the next chapter, which we’ll discuss next week, Rick will suggest a number of ways they have done that at Saddleback.
The pastor must be loving: The pastor must set the tone for the congregation. No matter how well you do at demonstrating, in practical ways, that you love the visitors, if they feel the pastor couldn’t care less, they won’t want to return.
Memorize names: I need to work on this one. I’m absolutely horrible at remembering names. Remembering names shows that you’re interested in people. Rick claims that nothing sounds sweeter to a 2nd time visitor than hearing you and I use their name.
Personally greet people before and after services: I need to work on this one also. In a seeker service I need to make absolute certain that I get this done. I love to mingle with church folk, rather they are believers or unbelievers. However, some leave immediately after service, so I must intentionally make certain that I greet them.
Touch people: Study the ministry of Christ and you will see the powerful effect of giving people a look, a word, and a touch. Rick mentions that the world is full of lonely people who are starving for the affirmation of a loving touch. Some who attend Saddleback have told Rick that the only loving physical touch they ever get is at church.
We need to do 2 things:
- We need to lovingly touch people.
- We need to be certain that our touch is appropriate.
Use a warm, personal style in writing to visitors: When Pastor Warren signs the letters they send to first time, second time, and third time visitors he simply signs those letters, “Rick.”
Rick received a visitor letter once that said, “Our church would like to acknowledge your presence with us last Sunday and extend to you a cordial invitation to return on the next Lord’s Day.” What the problem with that letter? No one talks that way. Rick would rather send a letter that said, “It was really great to have you. Hope you can come back.” The bottom line is, we don’t want to impress people; we want to influence them.
Accepting without approving: In order to love people unconditionally, we must understand the difference between acceptance and approval. Ad Christians we are all called to accept and love unbelievers without approving of sinful lifestyles. Jesus did this when He showed acceptance and love to the Samaritan woman at the well without approving of her licentious lifestyle. He also ate with Zacchaeus without approving of his dishonesty. He publicly defended the dignity of the woman caught in adultery without minimizing her sin. DON’T TRY TO CLEAN THE FISH BEFORE YOU CATCH THEM! We cannot expect unbelievers to act like believers until they are believers.
Rick says that they would rather have a southern California pagan attend our crowd service in shorts and a Budweiser T-shirt than stay home. Jesus did not say, “Clean up your act and then I’ll save you.” He loved you even before you changed. HE EXPECTS YOU TO DO THE SAME WITH OTHER PEOPLE!
Jesus Attracted Crowds by Meeting People’s Needs:
People crowded around Jesus because He met their needs – physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, and financial. He didn’t judge some needs as being “more legitimate” than others, and He certainly didn’t make people feel guilty for their needs. He treated each person with respect and dignity.
Jesus often met a felt need in order to establish a beachhead for evangelism in a person’s life. He often asked them, “What do you want me to do for you?” God uses all kinds of human needs to get their attention. Who are we to judge whether a person’s interest in Christ is for the right or wrong reason?
Getting people’s attention: Before you can share the Good News of salvation with someone, you have to get his/her attention. There are so many things trying to get the attention of every person that the only way we can get their attention is to offer them something they can’t get anywhere else.
James 2:15-17) [GNB] Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat.
16) What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!”—if you don’t give them the necessities of life?
17) So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.
Meeting human needs, regardless of what they are, is being a “doer of the Word.” Growing churches have figured out a way to meet the real needs of people. Rick tells us that a church will never grow beyond its capacity to meet needs.
One church surveyed its target area and discovered that the number one need mentioned was to know how to potty train their preschoolers. Instead of ignoring that need as unspiritual they decided to hold “Parenting Preschoolers” seminars at their church. They said that the Biblical basis for this approach was:
Proverbs 22:6) [KJV] Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
When it comes to using felt needs as an open door for evangelism the possibilities are limitless. Saddleback has over seventy targeted ministries to the crowd and community, each built around a specific need.
Jesus Attracted Crowds By Teaching In a Practical, Interesting Way:
Mark 10:1) [NIV] Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
Here’s how the crowds reacted to Jesus’ teaching:
- The crowds were amazed at his teachings [Matt. 7:28 GW].
- The crowds were profoundly impressed [Matt. 22:33LB].
- The people were so enthusiastic about Jesus’ teaching [Mark 11:18LB].
- They were spellbound by his teaching [Mark 11:18 NASB].
- The great crowd enjoyed listening to him [Mark 12:37 NASB].
There’s never been a greater communicator than Jesus. To capture the attention of unbelievers like He did we must communicate spiritual truth the way He did.
John 12:49) [MSG] I’m not making any of this up on my own. The Father who sent me gave me orders, told me what to say and how to say it.
Both the content and the delivery style came from His Father.
We will look at 3 attributes of Jesus’ teaching to the crowd:
Jesus began with people’s needs, hurts, and interests: Rick points out that Jesus usually taught in response to a question or a pressing problem from someone in the crowd. He scratched where it itched. His preaching had an immediacy about it. He was always relevant and on target for that moment.
When Jesus preached His first sermon at Nazareth He read from the prophet to announce what the preaching agenda of His ministry would be:
Luke 4:18-19) [GNB] “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors,
19) and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
Notice the complete emphasis on meeting needs and healing hurts. Jesus had good news to share so people wanted to hear it.
We don’t have to make the Bible relevant; it already is. However, we have to show the Bible’s relevance by applying its message personally to people’s lives, just as Jesus did.
“At the base of your brain stem is a filter called the ‘reticular activating system.’” Its function is to filter through everything your senses pick up, forwarding only a few of those stimuli on to your consciousness. That way you are not overloaded and overwhelmed.
What gets your attention? 3 things always make it past this system:
- The things you value.
- The things that are unique.
- The things that threaten you.
Rick believes the trick to getting the attention of the seekers is to tie your message to one of those attention-getters.
Jesus related truth to life: A lot of preaching is what Rick calls “Ain’t it awful!” preaching. It complains about society and makes judgments about people in general. It is long on diagnosis and short on remedy. This kind of preaching may make Christians feel superior to “those out there,” but it rarely changes anything. Instead of lighting a candle, it just curses the darkness.
You don’t want your doctor to just tell you what’s wrong, but to tell you how to fix it. People need fewer “ought to” sermons and more “how to” sermons. D.L. Moody once said, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.”
Rick want us to understand that the unchurched are not asking us to change our message, or even to dilute it, only that we show its relevance. He loves teaching theology to the unchurched without telling them it’s theology and without using theological terms. We don’t have to transform the message of the Bible, but we do have to translate it into terms the unchurched will understand.
Jesus spoke to the crowd with an interesting style: Crowds loved to listen to Jesus speak.
Mark 12:37b) [NIV] The large crowd listened to him with delight.
According to a Gallup poll several years before this book was written, to the unchurched church is the most boring place to be.
We don’t want to bore people with the most exciting book in the world. We need to present that book in a manner that the unchurched finds interesting. The Gospel message is too important to share it with a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude.
Jesus used stories to make a point. Benefits of using stories are:
- Stories hold our attention.
- Stories stir our emotions.
- Stories help us remember.
Jesus used simple language, not technical or theological jargon. He spoke in terms normal people could understand. Jesus didn’t use the classical Greek language of the scholar. He spoke in Aramaic, the street language of that day. He spoke of birds, flowers, lost coins, and everyday objects that people could relate to.
2 Corinthians 11:3) [NASB] But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
Einstein once said, “You don’t really understand something unless you can communicate it in a simple way.”
Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church