Sermonette: The Devil doesn't mind your church growing
May 2, 2022
The devil doesn’t mind your church growing. I know, it’s an eye grabbing first line (the youth might call it “click bait,”) but bear with me, I stand by it.
Throughout the gospels, one of the consistent themes is Jesus driving out demons. Most people know and celebrate this. However, many people forget the odd thing Jesus always does along with exorcism. Predictably, the demons always try to shout out that they recognize Jesus as “the Holy One of God,” but Jesus always commands them to be quiet, then exorcises them.
Think about that. What would the demoniacs accomplish if Jesus allowed them to proclaim from their unique spiritual perspective that Jesus is, in fact, the “Holy One of God?” I mean, they’re not wrong; Jesus is the Holy One of God. I’ll tell you what would happen: Jesus’ ministry would explode in numbers. People would flock to see the Holy One of God. The man, that despite exorcising the demons, even the demons themselves consistently recognized his status. People would seek him out by the thousands. Being a famous rabbi, even a miracle worker is one thing. The Holy One of God is on a whole other playing field. Jesus’ popularity would skyrocket. Certainly, the devil knows this is what would happen; and he’s okay with it. Let me say that again: the devil appears to be okay with people flocking to Jesus. Otherwise, the demons wouldn’t keep attempting to shout out Jesus’ greatest title, would they?
Jesus, however, consistently drives his numbers down. He takes breaks to pray in the wilderness when his popularity is peaking. He escapes the biggest crowds. When large groups seek him, he gives the most difficult teachings. Try reading the gospels as though Jesus is a budding social media influencer, and you’ll think he might have the worst P.R. person on the planet. Where the demon’s proclamations would grow his fame, Jesus attempts to smother his fame.
Clearly, Jesus seeks more than fame. More than huge numbers. More than simply butts in pews. He seeks faith. Jesus wanted and wants people today who will leave behind everything to follow him. Jesus didn’t seek a massive following, he sought disciples who would “take up their cross.” Maybe I could say it this way: Jesus doesn’t seem impressed by how many people came “in” to him; he was concerned with how many people went “out” from him. Jesus was more interested in the one who would give it all up to be like Him, than the 100 who wanted to spectate.
Today, with declining church attendance, it’s easy to get excited about big Sundays as though packed churches frighten the devil. I promise you; he’s not frightened by full pews. Rather, let’s get excited by the number of people who would leave everything in their life to follow Jesus. The ones who love their prayer time and who’s appetite for reading the Bible can’t be satisfied. The number of those people - of those disciples - grows much slower but, if anything is going to assault the gates of hell, it’ll be them.