Connect: Miraculous Community
“[Jesus] took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to hand out to the crowd. After the people had all eaten their fill, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up.” (Luke 9:16-17, The Message)
There are various versions of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of large crowds in the gospels. I think the gospel writers, as well as those throughout history who have been charged with telling the story of Jesus, know there is much in these stories with which we all can identify. We all know the power of celebrity. Huge crowds frequently gathered to hear Jesus preach and teach. We all know the power of hunger. In some of the stories of the miraculous feedings, the masses have followed Jesus into remote areas where food was not readily accessed. We all know the power of fear. The disciples were afraid of a riot breaking out if people got too hungry, not to mention, the panic they experienced when it appeared that Jesus was putting the responsibility on them to find food for these vast congregations. And we all know the power of hunger satisfied. Not only were the people fed, but in each of the stories, there were plenty of leftovers for later.
What may be missed in these miraculous stories is the power of what we could call “pop-up” communities. These types of communities happen all the time. Something unexpected happens and crowds spontaneously gather. The word begins to spread, and more and more people show up—all with questions like, “What’s going on?” or “What’s all the fuss about?” As the story unravels, it’s often nothing and people move on; however, there are times when what is happening is so compelling that people are drawn into the experience and their lives are changed forever. This is the stuff of revolutions!
This is my vision of the church of the 21st Century. Church gatherings have lost their relevance to people’s lives, and the church has faded into the background of our culture’s consciousness. We’ve got to create a buzz that piques people’s curiosity so that they will at least come and check us out. But when they arrive, we’ve got to speak to their wants and needs. If we can get them to stick around long enough, listening to what we have to offer that is relevant to their circumstances, then they may eventually realize they are hungry for something more. We better be prepared to give them something to eat. That “something to eat” is the Good News of Jesus’ love for them.
When we offer them the spiritual nourishment they need, miracles will begin to happen in our midst. More and more people will come to the feast. Soon, we’ll be creating the kind of community where miracles of transformation happen more and more and, as a result, more and more people will join us. Let’s get ready to become the miraculous community that God desires for us to be.