he saw the crowds…
mericans love crowds. We crowd into all kinds of small spaces. Where do all of the folks willing to spend $ 58.00 per head to squeeze into Six-Flags Over Georgia every day during the summer come from? Arbor Place Mall, and other metro malls, all seem to be filled beyond capacity on weekends and week days during these summer days.
Our family found many crowds during our eight long summer camping vacations through the great 48 states; back when the girls were small. Las Vegas was packed out on that hot July night, but we found a place to pop up our camper on a tarmac amid the rush of souls to cabarets and casinos. I wonder what tight venues all those souls are crowded into now, twenty years later?
One un-crowded place was that of The Ryman Auditorium in the heart of Nashville and I felt for a moment that The Grand Ole Opry must have died. But soon discovered that they had moved by necessity out to the suburbs and the New Grand Old Opry, “Opryland,” it's called now, was packed that night beyond capacity. It seemed like a super star was performing and our young children did not recognize the name. We bought four tickets anyway and waited in the crowd with baited breath for the super star act. Several warm up acts preceded and our young daughters thought they “sure were country.” Mother explained that this was the place where country was “cool.”
About then the lights dimmed and a spotlight caught the Master of Ceremonies in a red velvet cowboy hat. I wondered if the bulls would have charged such bright red. The starring act was introduced and the big curtain came up and the spotlight caught a tall thin older cowboy in a pink sequined suit with matching ten gallon hat, and he began to croon. There was electricity in that crowd; everyone was so excited, including we, when the old boy began to crow in a deep country voice, “I'm walking the floor over you, Can't sleep a wink that is true, I'm hoping and I'm praying that you'll come back to me, I'm walking the floor over you.” Most southerners know the tune sung by “Mr. Ernest Tubb.” He was a crowd pleaser! ( I did a Google search to verify the spelling of his name.)
Crowds can sometimes be fickle. Jesus was a crowd pleaser in that land of dust, hard work and very little entertainment. So, when the crowds heard that a local boy had turned to preaching they swarmed him. Five thousand, fifteen thousand and probably more came out of their little country towns to walk to where Jesus was preaching “The Good News.” However, his heart was moved when he saw the desperation, hunger and lostness in the faces in the crowd. He was further disturbed because there was nobody else to go out to them to share the happy news that the New Kingdom of God was about to be ushered in. Their days of being harassed and pushed around like sheep were about over. As Hebrews they were about to regain their honor. Even the Gentiles, those outsiders to the Old Testament promises, would even be included in this New Deal. He could not explain the rest of the story to them yet, even the Apostles did not get it yet, but soon everybody in the entire world would be a candidate for the Gospel, The Good News.
This story translates into today's world in that we still are called to make room. We who have had the benefits of the Gospel, must make every effort to bring in the lost sheep just as Jesus did. We too must have compassion for those outside of the gate. The whole city, county, and region of central west Georgia is included in our outreach responsibilities. We have an attractive and wonderful church and there are some families who will not be reached unless we reach them. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” which translates into our situation meaning that there are thousands of lost soul, good and well educated, affluent families, who want to find the door of our church, and it is our opportunity to swing the doors open wide. These outstanding people are what Jesus called “lost” and we must make it easier to find the open doors.
In order to swing the doors open wide we who are committed must proclaim the word that individuals and families can find a wonderful place to rear their children and find new Christian friends here.
We are already doing a lot to reach out. Our Vacation Bible School last week was one wonderful example of inclusion. Someone said that about twenty per-cent were from families that did not attend our church. Every year some of these kids go back home and announce that they are going to bring their parents to this wonderful church. The kids love it here and their parents will too, if we can make them feel welcome, as we did with their children. Lots of lonely people live in isolation in their suburban homes in nearby subdivisions. Churches, as well as public schools and recreation programs, offer programs that bring people together. A local church attracts new visitors as ladies brag about their fine Sunday School class as they sit around the pool watching their children play together. Barber shops and Home Depot aisles are other places where adults find out about which church is best, or we might say, which one might best meet the needs.
And when we get them here they hear the Good News of New Life in Jesus Christ. Some of these new people are surprised. One young father commented, “I thought people had given up on church.” Another visitor said, “This is Cool!” They go away changed much like the folks who followed the crowds to find Jesus, back in the hills of Palestine .
Our mission, our responsibility and calling is to make a place for those who will come to this great church! They are looking for just the kind of crowd that we have here! Ours is a Holy Calling! This might just be the most important thing we ever do! It sure seems that way to me!
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor