Last Sunday I was sitting in a men's leadership class and the question was asked, "Why have so many people missed church recently?" Why don't people get involved? Why do the 20% do 80% of the work? I think I know at least part of the answer as to why.
Luke 14: 16-27, - 16But he said to him, "A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.' 19And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.' 20And another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.' 21So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, 'Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' 22And the servant said, 'Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' 23And the master said to the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'"
25Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.(ESV)
Three levels of invitation in the reading above. Come in, not just an invitation to church, Christ invites you to come in to hear about him. He invites all to come in. This means if they don't look like you, they're still invited. If they are tattered up we invite them to come in. This means if they're men and they got earrings in there ears, eyebrow, lip or tongue they're still invited. This means that if she's the fastest thing on the block and wearing her shirt so tight that all the men are looking strange, she's still invited. We seem to have decided that the church is suppose to attract good people. The church is suppose to attract ALL kinds of people as well as vulgar, despicable and downtrodden. We exert a lot of time and energy making sure the right kinds of people are at church. It is not your or my job to screen people coming to church. It's not your job to screen who comes to Jesus. Jesus invites everybody to come in. This is not our church. This is the first kind of invite that the Lord presents to people. Everybody is excepted to come in to Jesus. In the reading above (v.23, 25) we can see people had "come in" to Jesus and were following him. All kinds of people some looking for a miracle, some just to see what he would do next, and some to hear his message. Some I am sure were just thrill seekers and with this many people you know some were just there to socialize.
Jesus had all these people come in to him, but Jesus is not in the business of leaving people like they are. Starting in v. 25 thru 26 Jesus turns to the people that have come in and lets them know if they are going to come to him they're going to have to change. All these people that were thinking Jesus was accepting of them, and he is, now see that discipleship is going to cost them something. If you are going to "Come to" Christ there has to be a change in your primary relationship on this earth. Your primary relationship on this earth has to be Jesus Christ, not children, or parents, or spouse, or baseball, or football. I had to kind of add that in because sometimes these things are above families as well. If your primary relationship is Christ all the family relationships will be taken care of. Jesus has raised the standard of being his disciple to all this crowd to see who would still follow. He's going to thin this crowd, because when Jesus seeks to change you a lot of people resist, want to compromise, and just plain refuse.
I have said all this to try to make the point that our churches are filled with people that have come in, but have refused to come to Jesus.
The disciples that have "come after" Jesus have taken this a little deeper. They'll have to check to see what's going on in the Kingdom before they decide what they're doing on a Friday night. They're the kind of people that will have to check to see what the kingdom is like and if it exists in that town where the new and better job is. The kind of people that will move closer to their church than their job. They can't accept a better job somewhere that wants them to work three Sundays out of a month if they can't get to church sometime on the Lord's Day. When you come after Jesus you'll lose friends, and possibly some family as well. That is unacceptable to a lot of people. You'll thin the crowd around you just as Jesus did. Jesus doesn't intend for you to take up your cross and come after him unless you're willing to be hung on it. Thats what a cross is, something you carry until it carries you.
Why do 20% do 80% of the work? About 80% of the people have just come in and are content to stay there. We have to find a way to get people to come to, so their primary relationship can be Jesus and then begin the process of coming after.