In Mark 3:7-12 Jesus ministers to a large mass of people. This crowd followed Him not because they were seeking the Messiah. Rather, they sought a miracle-worker. With so many trying to touch Christ, a religious frenzy of pushing and shoving resulted.
Christ was forced to retreat by boat and then camp on a mountain to avoid the throngs of people. It was against this backdrop that the twelve apostles were chosen – an intimate group of loyal (though sometimes immature) men who would eventually carry the gospel message of Jesus into a lost world.
In this short passage is a picture of human behavior – we tend to flock towards popularity without regard for legitimacy. While Christ is the great Savior of the world, most of the crowd in this passage (like people today) was there simply because He was the new healer of the day.
In his classic Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles MacKay writes about specific historic events in which human folly ousted normal reason in the pursuit of mass hysteria. His thesis: people are easily swayed by public manipulation and the latest waves of appeal.
I can’t help but to think many of our churches experience their own form of tulip mania – swarms of churchgoers gravitating towards the church they think is the most popular or best-suited for their needs.
Without a doubt, many of these churches have superb pastoral leadership and are fully obedient to the Great Commission. They are “mega” because they truly want the lost saved and the body discipled. And their church is one of excellence. But others are simply drawing a crowd.
With the advent of a mobile, connected, and transient society comes the dilemma of church-swappers. Small and large alike, many churches struggle with how to handle people who want to join from other like-minded churches in the same area.
Solving this issue is not an easy task in established churches. New members’ classes are one great way to help assimilate the body and close the back door. As for those who come through the front door, I tell them that I want to talk to their current pastor before they join. Not too many balk at this request, and most pastors in the area appreciate the phone call.
But the real issue is discipleship. The Great Commission calls us to make disciples, not converts. Those who come into the fellowship of believers and do not grow spiritually within the church are all at risk of walking out the back door to another church where they feel their needs will be met.
“It’s all about me” is the anthem chant of a church-swapper.
And what did Christ do with the madness of the crowd that was there to see Him? He chose twelve and begun to train and disciple them so that they may in turn disciple others.
We must be good stewards about sharing the gospel with any group, large or small. Additionally, the goal of discipleship with those who profess faith should not be ignored. Christ is the example. And He certainly provides the model for dealing with the madness of church crowds.
May the gospel message always draw crowds. May we always be messengers of the good news to these crowds. And may we always remain fully obedient to the Great Commission by discipling those who accept the grace of our Lord.