When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to Him, He said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.” Luke 8:4–5
Jesus told the parable of the sower and the seeds to a large gathering of people who had made their way to Jesus. We often view a gathered crowd as evidence of success. There are plenty of preachers who would feel wildly successful if they were standing in front of a congregation of thousands. This does not appear to be the case with Jesus. We know that Jesus was accustomed to speaking to enormous crowds, but when looking out at them, Jesus knew that numbers could be deceiving. In fact, Jesus suggested in this parable that He expected that as many as seventy-five percent of the people who made their way to Him to fall from the faith. Most folks who flocked to Jesus would drift away from his teachings one way or another. There was a remnant in the crowd, however—maybe only a quarter of the people—who would fully embrace Jesus’ message and allow that message to change their lives. And Jesus believed that those changed lives would produce more than anyone could imagine. What a remarkable thing for a leader of thousands to say! Don’t trust the crowds, don’t be overly impressed with numbers, and don’t be entirely disheartened when many of the people you thought were engaged disappear. Our efforts in this life do not have to do with producing numbers but with transforming people. There will be disappointments along the way, the crowds will dwindle at times, but in the end, we will be surprised by how much difference we have made in the lives that truly receive our message.
Are crowds a sign of success for you?
Lord, if a crowd gathers, we believe something good must be going on. We believe numbers denote success. If people flock, maybe we should too. But You encourage us to look beyond the numbers to lives changed and relationships transformed. Crowds can be fun, but seeing even a single life transformed is a true joy. In Jesus’ name, I pray. AMEN.