WARNING ⚠️ What I’m about to say will most likely be offensive. It is not meant to accuse or judge any one or any organization. It said to make us think and reconsider what Jesus is looking for. I encourage a good reading of John 6 and 12.
“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” John 6:60, 66 ESV
There's nothing wrong with huge attendance. Its great to see large crowds of people worship and come to church. It's fun. It's encouraging. But large crowds are not what Jesus is after. It might be what we're after. It might make us feel successful. It might make us look good. But it's not what Jesus is looking for.
Interestingly, Jesus tried to whittle down the crowds instead of building them. ( I guess He had a lot to learn about modern church growth. ) He was looking for real believers, for true disciples. He would rather have just a few of those than a crowd. That’s how the gospel first spread through the world in the first century. This is how it can change the world today. He said, “Unless a grain of wheatfall in the ground and die… He also said, “Take up your cross and follow me”, and many similar statements. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died for his faith resisting the Nazis, put it this way, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Reading the gospel of John has certainly made me examine my walk with Jesus as well as my message to others about Him. After His words eliminated a crowd and sent many disciples packing, only a few stayed. Yikes!
Jesus is looking for true disciples not just fickle crowds or well intentioned followers. He's looking for people who will say yes to Him - all the time. That's why Jesus said count the cost. He didn't pull any punches. He is looking for the few that will say "Yes" to Him about everything He asks us. Fortunately, it's not about our ability but His. We can't be disciples on our own. Only the Holy Spirit can speak truth and change a person. But what we get to do is decide.
As our hearts are stirred by His call to come and die, as we struggle with our own humanity, we can ask Him to help us be willing. If we want to say yes to His call, we can ask for His help. We can say yes to be willing to say yes and let the Holy Spirit help us. It's called radical obedience. Radical obedience to Christ looks different for every person. It's about following Him and saying yes each step of the way.
Don't misunderstand. He passionately loves everyone in the crowd. Even His least committed followers are saved. That's not the issue here. The issue here is what does Jesus want? What kind of disciple is He looking for? What will our answer be to Him?
“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” John 6:60, 66 ESV