The Kingdom of God and Crowds (Why It’s Not About Everyone Liking You)

We’ve adopted the idea that doing something right means being well received by ever growing amounts of people, but often the kingdom of God has very little to do with drawing a crowd. #faith

A couple Saturdays ago I woke up at the crack of dawn and spent the first half of the day chopping onions and rolling brown rice and quinoa into cabbage rolls with a small group of women in an old dilapidated church deep in Brooklyn. And after hours of prep and hard work and talking and getting to know each other, we opened the doors of the church and let the community in.

Throughout the meal I had the awesome job of going from table to table and finding out what each of our guests liked or disliked about the food. And as we were chatting, I got to know their names and pieces of their life stories. And we wished them well and told them to come again.

And as I waited outside for my husband to pick me up again and bring me home, a man named Dave approached me and shook my hand and told me he couldn’t wait to come back, even if we put too many vegetables on his plate.

On the way home, I couldn’t help but think about how it was one of the best experiences of my life, and how I couldn’t wait to do it again next month.

And did you know that in all of those hours of chopping and prepping and cooking and scrubbing dishes clean, and after all that waking at dawn and driving across the city, and giving up the good part of my one free day, and chatting and surveying and encouraging little kids as they told me about where they went to school, we served only twenty six people?

Twenty six people.

Twenty six souls who on that morning saw and felt and heard and received the love of God. And in that moment it felt like one hundred. And it occurred to me later that day that often the kingdom of God has very little to do with drawing a crowd. 

In our 21st century American culture we’ve adopted the idea that doing something right means being well received by ever growing amounts of people. But the lives of all of the prophets, or Jesus’ disciples, or the earthly life of our Lord and Savior Himself throw that into stark contrast.

Often when Jesus gave His best sermons, He lost the greatest amount of followers – because what He said was hard. It was challenging. And it was downright unpopular enough to get Him killed. And Paul, author of two thirds of the New Testament, wrote that he could not please both people and God.

In fact, throughout history when God’s people did what He called them to do, it very rarely yielded worldly success. Often doing what was right or sharing the word of God landed them in the hot seat. Or the lions den. Or the furnace. Or a cross.

It was when they lived their most true calling that they received their greatest rejection. 

Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”… At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:60; 66-69 (NLT)

If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s way too easy to give up long before we’re the one in the hot seat, or the lions den, or the proverbial furnace, or even the proverbial cross. Because the danger in being surrounded by likes and shares and retweets and Pins and having all this instant access to what everyone either thinks or doesn’t think of us is that it takes our eyes off of what God’s doing and onto how we’re doing instead. It’s easy to become consumed with ourselves.

It’s easy to equate honoring God with being successful, and once we’ve done that it’s even easier to get swept along with the tide. Or to think that nothing we say or do to share God’s love ever matters at all. It’s easy to forget Jesus’ words when He told us, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)

Follow – Kissing yes-itis people-pleasing and the ways of this world behind to follow Jesus into fuller life

 

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” – Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. – 1 Thessalonians 2:4

Kim from praylivecreate.com

Original photo by GaborfromHungary from morguefile.com. Adapted for this blog post by Stephanie Oh.

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6 comments

  1. Great post Kim. Really good stuff. It’s funny how so much of what changes us is a change in perspective. Thanks for sharing this.

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  2. I can relate to the whole getting likes and follows and retweets thing. It took me many years to just not care anymore. I guess it means I’m finally realizing the Source of my sufficiency is in Christ, not man. This is a good thing!

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  3. Being a part of a small ministry for this last decade, I can definitely agree wholeheartedly that it’s not about “how many” but about the heart of what you do. It’s hard, though, to balance that with all the physical/financial requirements of ministry, too. I mean, our ministry has been operating in the red from day one. And that’s crazy scary and it feels like there’s nothing really holding it together except duck tape, so to speak. But really, it’s God and that’s always true and I think being in this place of dependency definitely forces you to realize that *everything* depends on God to hold it together. That money and large numbers and security are never the things that keep a ministry going or make it successful, even though it sure seems like it at the time. Anyway, bringing it down to a more personal level, I think I struggle when I don’t receive the kind of feedback/response to my writing or art that I want because I’m always wanting so desperately to make an impact on the world for God and good–and sometimes it feels like nothing your doing is making a difference, you know? But there’s that dependency thing again–it’s only ever God Who makes the impact and my job is to trust Him with my meager resources and talents and believe that if He wants them to make an impact, He will do it. Because it’s only Him Who does it anyway. Sometimes harder said than done, though, yes? Love you big time, Kim!

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    1. So much harder said than done! I love what you can bring to this through your perspective in ministry. I think our natural human tendency will always be to measure our success, like David with the census. But I’m always blown away when God shows me that sometimes something we do blesses someone even if we don’t know it at the time. I’m thankful for your writing and art and know they’ve both been a huge blessing to me and others. Sending a big internet hug to you today!!

      Sent from my iPhone

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