We have been looking at the role of signs and wonders in reaching out to the lost and making disciples. Apostles, and thus apostolic people, move in a calling and empowerment that brings about signs and wonders both to initially get a person’s attention as well as to confirm the words being spoken and the message being shared.
As vital as signs and wonders are for successful evangelism, John chapter six also includes a sobering warning. Although the chapter begins with great crowds and triumph, it ends on a far different note. Midway through the chapter, Jesus starts to challenge the multitude that the time for real commitment has come. Instead o remaining a crowd of freeloading miracle-seekers, they must eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53-57).
How do people respond to Jesus’ message of total commitment? “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66). How would the sight of these mass defections affect Jesus’ original twelve disciples? Would they question their own dedication in light of Jesus’ sudden unpopularity? “Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life'” (John 6:67-68). Despite Peter’s affirmation of the disciples’ unwavering commitment, the chapter ends with the tragic statement that Judas, one of the twelve, would ultimately betray Jesus.
John Chapter 6 describes a pivotal decision in Jesus’ ministry: He would build His Church around eleven dedicated followers rather than 5,000 people who were looking only for a good show and a free lunc. This is, in fact, one of the crucial “apostolic decisions” that every believer and Christian leaders must face: What kind of people will we build our ministry around and what kind of people do we want to invest time in discipling?
We need to understand the central paradox in John chapter 6. On the one hand, great crowds were attracted by Jesus’ signs and wonders; on the other hand, most of these people turned out to be fair-weather followers, who quickly disappeared when confronted by the call for true discipleship. So what are we to think and conclude? Is it therefore a waste of time to seek God’s power in order to draw people into the Kingdom? Or should we go the other direction, watering down Jesus’ call to full commitment because it hinders Church growth?
We need to be challenged by both sides of this apparent dilemma:
>> God wants to reveal His miracle-working power in every church today, drawing multitudes to come and see Him work
>> Churches that are experiencing the supernatural and attracting large crowds must honestly ask themselves whether they have taken the next step: presenting the cost of discipleship. If your church (ministry, personal outreach to the lost) is only portraying God as the “God of the goodies,” you may well have a lot of people – but you are deceiving yourself if you thing they are really committed, true disciples of Jesus.
HERE’S MY POINT: True apostolic evangelism combines miralces and discipleship, realizing that both are crucial to the growth and stability of the Church. Apostolic evangelism isn’t impressed by big crowds alone but inquires about the maturity and depth of commitment in the lives of the people. It realizes that the evangelism process isn’t finished until individuals have been built together as a healthy spiritual body.