A man was telling me about a slow leak in his truck tire. He wanted to get as far down the road as possible, because he did not have a spare tire. He explained that his grandfather had told him a secret, “When you have a slow leak, drive as fast as you can. This will cause more wheel rotations, and when the part of the tire with the hole hits the pavement, the pressure will not let the air escape. Just drive flat out, and you can go longer before the flat completely stops you.” I thought that was interesting but wondered what it had to do with our seminar. Then, with a crestfallen countenance, the man looked at me and said, “I am flat as a pastor and a believer. I have seen there was a leak in the church, and my approach was to speed up, introduce as many new programs as possible, keep the people busy and distracted, and thus ignore the leak. It did not work, and I am flat and exhausted. Today I have seen the leak’s essence: I had forgotten to proclaim Jesus, forgotten to determine to make Him known.” That I did understand.
We must be careful as we work in the church, for what attracts the people will be what is needed to keep the people. I have seen so many burnt-out believers. Jesus fed the multitude, and when He was not feeding them, they crucified Him. He was feeding their flesh, and their flesh grew.
Imagine two pastors, both with the same message. One attracts the people with videos, music, games, a magnificent facility, miracles, healings, comfort, cappuccino machines, the spectacular, strong personalities, and bribes of a variety of forms. The other attracts with the simple message that a believer is the temple of God, the Holy Spirit will bring about the life of Christ naturally in him, and Jesus can be the source of his heart to bring life to his spirit, soul, body, and the world around him; though in the world there will be trouble, Jesus has overcome the world. The first pastor now needs a football field to accommodate the audience and enough room for motorcycles to jump over him while he speaks or a flagpole from the top of which he has promised to eat pie if everyone in the youth group brings a friend. The other pastor just keeps talking about Jesus and has fifty people attending; they take back to their daily lives and jobs a great secret: Jesus is in them. One must ask what has really attracted the people, because what attracts the people is what will keep them.
I find it interesting that overall attendance in church is decreasing but increasing in the mega-church. What does one have that the other does not? It is a slippery slope and a great temptation when we see the mega-club degrade Christianity to the folly of the flesh that attracts people. Once that has occurred, the only way to keep the people from shifting to another mega-club with more appeal to the flesh is to keep upping the fleshly appeal in the existing club. It is throat-cutting, because flesh begets flesh, and appealing to the flesh of man will ultimately create more flesh. What an ambiance for the church of Jesus Christ!
Take a walk in the woods. Life is something that comes naturally, without effort. If people are attracted by Jesus, then lifting up Jesus will keep the people. The goal is not keeping them coming for any reason but for Him and His glory. It is easy and relaxing. I spoke to a large group in a remote area of Nepal. The pastors came at the break, saying, “We did not know that if God gets the glory, He does the work. Everything we have heard from the U.S. involved a program we needed to do. Preaching Christ has taken a second place.”
Yes, and there is one more thing: When did the men of God begin to look to the world for the secret of success? There was a time when the Church led the world. It is as though there is a worldly parade and the Christian club stands on the curb analyzing what has attracted people to join in. Next, the Christians jump to the back of the parade, dressing, imitating, and offering what those with a darkened mind at the front have dreamed up for the masses. They put something of a Christian twist to it, believing that those at the front of the parade will look back and want to be led by the new followers. A club in the Midwest used its budget to buy shot glasses and hand them out to every bar in town for free. The bar owners were asked to serve the whiskey in the glasses, so that when the patron drank the last swig, he would see the message painted on the bottom, “Give our church a shot,” along with the address. This kind of thing is hailed as cutting edge. A group of prostitutes for Jesus is said to be going on the streets and sleeping with men before giving them a Bible and inviting them to church. When questioned, they said what so many say, “How else are you going to reach these men? They will not come to church.” I want to encourage all of you reading this that Jesus is enough, and if you want to shake the world, you do not have to become like it to be heard. The world knows a contrast when it sees one. We are not joining the world’s parade. People attracted to Jesus need only hear talk about Him.
That type of fellowship will not ever go flat.