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Monday: Seeking the Multitudes — 10 Comments

  1. I used to travel by train to Sydney two or three times a week to do my research at the University. Typically, the train was full and when I arrived at the station near the University, I had to walk with a multitude of other students all walking the same way. Thousands of minds, all heading in one direction, seeking an education so that they can be employed. I was sitting on the lawn one day eating my lunch along with hundreds of others when a pair of students came up out of the blue and started talking to me about Jesus. The language they used made sense to me because I had been a Christian all my life. but I knew that among the thousands of students on that campus, I would have been one of the few who understood it. I let them know that I too was a Christian and you could see the relief on their faces that they had found someone with a similar mindset. They seemed oblivious of the fact that their "Jesus talk" message was not understood at best, or regarded as sinister and spooky at worst, among the other students.

    My point is that most of us see the multitude and pray that the Holy Spirit will reach them, but feel frustrated that nobody will listen. I have great admiration for those Christian students who attend student parties and activities and make sure that they are there when students are throwing up from drinking too much, can step in when female students are being harassed for sexual favours, ensures that stoned students return home safely, or get medical attention if necessary. Telling a three-condom-week student that they are sinning is like trying to put out a fire with a drinking straw. Being their friend and confidant when things go seriously wrong is practical understanding Christianity.

    We cannot interact with the multitude, but we can influence the part of the multitude who become our friends.

    • Your second last paragraph is very loud sir. How we despise Christians who walk and make friends with worldly friends. Sure we are told not to love the world, not that we shouldn't love worldly people. 1 John 2:15. There are people out there who became Christians, not because they were preached to, but because someone helped them when they blacked out and realised when they became sober.

    • I mostly agree with you about the students you encountered, but I think maybe we should give them a little grace. They are doing something hard and have thrown themselves into it. That's something to be commended even if it isn't perfect. And they may reach some people too.

      Perhaps we need to accept that we won't all be a witness in the exact same way. I think of Matthew 11:16-19 where Jesus talks about how both He and John were criticized for different reasons. Each had a different approach but it's safe to say both were Spirit inspired. Similarly we see Elijah, a fiery isolated prophet, and Elisha, a gentle prophet who make strong connections with people. Different, but God used them both.

      I wasn't at the parties when I was in university and today when I do occasionally join colleagues in those sorts of atmospheres I find I don't make a whole lot of difference. That's not the place for me. I bless those who are able to minister that way and I trust God can use me in other situations. The challenge is not to compare ourselves, for better or worse, too much.

    • Great illistration, and many great examples of living you have given through the quarters. Continue.

      The thing that came to my mind is, we have to interact with the multitude to get friends from the multitude. Now it is the will of the One who gives us the will to do His will, which is to refrain from activities that are against our beliefs. This week's lesson gives us examples. God put His people near the boarders of Syria with intention of them putting on the armor of God as explained in Ephesians 6:10-20. With the armor of God we are fitted to remain faithful to Him, thus following His mission, our mission, where ever we may be.

      Christ set the example hundreds of years later by taking His followers to Tyre and Sidon, showing them and us of what can be done when they are with Christ, or in Christ. In Christ we are strong, able to stand against the strategies of the devil. Ephesians 6:10-11.

  2. “We cannot interact with the multitude, but we can influence the part of the multitude who become our friends.”

    Maurice’s comment describes how to approach what feels like an overwhelming mission field in the cities. I too live in a crowded urban environment full of all kinds of religions and all kinds of secularism and multitudes of needy people. It’s easy to feel defeated before you even begin. But remembering that Jesus interacted meaningfully with individuals who then became mission partners with Him breaks down the enormity of the task into something manageable. Each one can reach one.

  3. Can we build religious "palaces" for drawing the multitudes that are just as futile as the world's self-aggrandizing palaces?

    Here's what I mean. Our hearts can be looking from the place of God's heart - to see His Kingdom grow and people come into the peace and joy and truth and love that is the salvation story. But then we can turn to very human, "worldly", works-based plans to accomplish this. Evangelism can be thought of as "campaigns", power-point "modules" breaking down check-off steps, and setting number goals of how many baptized to target for, and by which dates. People can receive T-shirts or other incentives as recognition during assemblies for Bible studies given or converts made. It has a business-like flavor reminiscent of when I worked for a major bank chain.

    Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as a blowing wind that is not controllable. Think of what major wind gusts can do, far more than humans counted on! When the fire of the Holy Spirit roared into hearts on Pentecost, about 3,000 were baptized that same day. Are we expecting and ready to receive all that? Are we willing to bypass the careful cookie-cutter steps we've made to let the Holy Spirit release God's power among us?

    Acts 5:12-16 tells us a story of how multitudes of men and women were added to the Lord's camp at the hands of those first apostles and evangelists. The early church was not weak, it was strong. What did they do or think or know that we don't? The needs of the world today are so great. Why aren't people holding Christians "in high honor" (Acts 5:13) now, as they were then?

    If we back up to Acts 4:29-30, I think we see some answers. Not business models. We see that they cried for boldness in their witness. They cried for God's Hand to be stretched forth in healing. They cried desperately to God to perform signs and wonders. But wait, didn't Jesus warn against asking for signs (Matt. 12:39; 16:4)? And why did they need signs and wonders when hundreds of eyewitnesses to Jesus's resurrection were still in Jerusalem? Why did they need signs and wonders when they had the anointed preaching of Peter and Stephen and Paul?

    Acts 5:12 tells us that God answered their prayers for signs and wonders; God performed miracles through the apostles and as a result "more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women" (Acts 5:14). In addition to the wonder of Pentecost that led to 3,000 believing, the lame man's healing led to 5,000 born again (Acts 4:4). Paul healed Aeneas and all the residents of his town turned to the Lord (Acts 9:34-35). Peter raised Tabitha from the dead and many throughout Joppa believed in the Lord (Acts 9:40,42).

    So signs and wonders and healings helped bring people to Jesus and a saving faith. What are signs and wonders? How do multitudes turn to God?

    The multitudes of unbelievers need to see in the material physical world that our focused-on-Jesus worldview meets needs that their worldview can't. We ask for signs not because we have doubts that need proof, but because we need God's help to shatter the shells of disinterest and cynicism and false religion. God's help to authenticate the truth of living by God's Word, showing through us how the Bible's centrality and necessity in our lives makes a huge, noticeable and powerful difference.

    Maybe the signs and wonders we ask for are actually changes in people's lives and health and countenances and inner peace, shown outwardly. Starting with ourselves! Who will want to hear us if we aren't moved with compassion and love that is more overwhelming than a secular humanitarianism (John 13:35)? Who will want to trust us to bring healing to them if we claim Jesus but are sickly and fearful and limited ourselves? Why are we too often looking to flowcharts and "reasonable" evangelism goals, when God begs us to ask for something big in His Name, and promises that He is ready to do through us "more than we can ask or imagine" (Eph. 3:20; John 16:24)?

  4. Could it be possible that Jesus’ call to go out into all the world and preach the Gospel was at that moment aimed at His apostles whom He had prepared for more than 3 years, teaching them and showing them how to go about the ministry of reaching the people for the Gospel of the Kingdom of God?

    I do not think that everyone is called to be a missionary, but we all can have the mindset and the heart of a missionary as we go about our daily life. Our heavenly Father brings many opportunities into our life to participate directly through our reaching out to others, though it needs to be left up to the individual how to engage. Should one be called to go out as a missionary or evangelist, one will know with certainty.

    Jesus encouraged His apostles to go out to preach and teach, but His greatest impact came through healing the sick and infirm. There is so much need in communities all over the world. If every Christian makes sure that he/she starts right outside their own front door by being kind and attentive to the needs of others, the effect of God's Love will be felt around the world.
    Yes, we pray that the Lord will send out His laborers into His harvest.

    • Brigitte, In Mark 5:19 Jesus tells the recently converted man to go home and tell what wonderful things God had done for him. You are right. Sometimes God sends us overseas as missionaries and sometimes he just sends us back home, but either way we have a mission.

  5. We need to call upon the One that can make it happen, Jesus the Saviour, in our ministering to others, so that we can look forward in hope of winning a soul for Him.


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