The “crowd” is treated very differently by different churches and church leaders. The priority the crowd should take in decision making and Church activity is an active and ongoing debate. Most church leaders even struggle to define the crowd.
Crowds are fickle. They come and go. They arrive and they depart. May people desire to be an anonymous member of the crowd while others are starving for the day someone knows their name. Some people that attend church want to stay in the crowd so that no one in the church will know how they really live their life. While others in the crowd are desperate for someone to know about their life, to know their story, and to help them write a new one.
In my Scripture reading this morning I read a parable of Jesus in which he teaches strongly against the religious leaders and even foreshadows his own death at their hands. After this interaction the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were angry with Jesus for teaching against them. Mark 12:12 says, “Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.”
This little verse speaks volumes to the religious leaders of our days. It speaks volumes to me as a church leader. How often do we walk away from something because we fear the crowd? How often does the desire to appease and maintain the crowd in our church prevent us from speaking Truth? How often does it prevent us from creating times of worship that are deep and meaningful for every believer in attendance?
Is the fear of the crowd driving you? One of the axioms of our day in church is this truth, “What you reach them with you must keep them with.”
If you reach them with creativity without content, you cannot keep them with content.
If you reach them with secular music without spiritual reason, you cannot keep them with spiritual reasoning.
If you reach them with love, you cannot keep them with condemnation.
If you reach them with passion, you cannot keep them with guilt.
If you reach them with guilt, you cannot keep them with love.
Do you get it?
Are you driven by the fear of the crowd?
The fear of losing them.
The fear of turning them away.
How about the fear of them never showing up in the first place?
I have dealt much in my ministry with the fear of the crowd. I remember early on in church planting being in constant fear a crowd would never show up. Honestly, some might say it still has not, but I believe one has. Actually many have.
But I still wonder, how often do we fail to do what is right (to us) because of fear of the crowd?
There is no truth too ancient, no song too old, no practice too difficult, no Word too timely, no grace too small, no standard too high, no message too difficult, no act of compassion too costly to prevent us from doing that which is right.
That must be our standard. If the fear of the crowd drives you, the Holy Spirit does not lead you.
Love the crowd, but never fear it.
Reach and teach the crowd, but do not appease it.
Beseech the crowd and belove the crowd, but never, ever bow to it.
(If you want to see why the crowd is so important read on further in Mark 12 in verses 28-34. How much did Jesus value the soul of this one man who stepped in closer out of the crowd?)