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One Person at a Time

When I read through the Gospels, I’m amazed to see how Jesus took time for individuals in the midst of the crowds. In Matthew 8, right after the Sermon on the Mount, great multitudes were following Jesus. He was in the height of His popularity! Imagine the fame and glory brought by the throngs of adoring fans who wanted just a glimpse of this remarkable Teacher and Miracle Worker. After healing Peter’s mother-in-law, “many who were oppressed by demons” were brought to Jesus, and he “healed all who were sick” (v. 16). Two verses later “Jesus saw a crowd around him” (v. 18). And the very last verse in Matthew 8 tells us “all the city came out to meet Jesus” (v. 34).


What would you do with all that notoriety? If you were Jesus, wouldn’t it make sense to capitalize on that popularity and turn it into an even broader evangelistic campaign that could sweep the region, the country, and even the world? If you have that type of following, don’t waste it on individuals! You’re too big, too important, and too much in demand to limit your scope to a single person when you can change the entire world.


What did Jesus do? Just the opposite. When He saw the crowds, He focused on individuals within the crowds. In the midst of the masses, a leper came to Jesus, knelt before Him, and asked, “`Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, `I will; be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (vv. 2-3).


When He entered Capernaum, Jesus took time for a centurion and healed his servant who was lying paralyzed at the centurion’s home (vv. 6, 13). When He spoke to the multitudes, He was speaking to individuals. When He healed those brought to Him, He did so one person at a time.


Ministry may affect the masses but only insofar as it impacts individuals. Sometimes I think we forget that in church life. We want to reach dozens of people, even hundreds and thousands. We want to change our city and region. We want to reach the world. But we do so, just as Jesus did, one person at a time. This is not individualism; it is helping, serving, and loving people as individuals.


In the eyes of Jesus you are more than your demographic; you are a person. You, as an individual, were created in the image of God. God knew you personally before you were formed in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-16). God doesn’t define you by your group. Your identity is not crafted in your community. God formed YOU. He knit YOU together, and YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made.


You are a part of a family, community, small group, and, hopefully, church, and we do need one another. But when we are in our family, community or group, our identity is not absorbed in the pool of persons, and we cease to exist as individuals. That’s called Hinduism. Christianity teaches that our oneness is not singularity nor absorption. Our oneness in family, community, groups and church is based on the oneness of the Trinity: One God in three Persons.


If you ever feel like you get lost in the crowd, or that you’re unimportant, because you’re just one person in a church, school, or city, know that you, individually, are vitally important to God. Jesus died for you personally, not just the whole world. When He sees the crowd, He sees us as persons. And if we want to “reach the world,” we do so one person at a time.

Hunger Games with a Purpose

There’s a popular movie showing in theaters across the country called The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Although I haven’t seen it, I’ve read The Hunger Games trilogy (don’t judge me), of which the current movie is based on book two. The High School Ministry of our church held a twenty-four hour fast this past weekend, which they, too, called, “The Hunger Games.” Our teens prayed, worshiped, studied, and played strategic “hunger games” such as carrying buckets of water on their head to illustrate how many people in third-world nations have to carry water for miles just to survive. Everything the students did connected with a special offering our church receives each year to provide for under-resourced people in our city, region and world.


I love it when students come together for a purpose like this. We didn’t advertise. We didn’t tell students to come and check out the coolest band, the most entertaining speakers, or even offer that we’d throw in free movie passes if you brought a friend. Students invited students. Friends invited friends. And all of them experienced on a very small scale what roughly 870 million people around the world experience every…single…day. Of the 870 million who are chronically under-nourished, 3.5 million are children who die every year. That’s almost 10,000 children a day.


My two oldest children had the opportunity to participate in this event, and they both came away with a much deeper understanding of global poverty and how Jesus calls us to help with both spiritual and physical needs. I like the “and.” Some people think Christians are too heavenly minded to do any earthly good. And others think a person is theologically liberal if he or she emphasizes feeding the hungry. The implication is that you are shirking the proclamation of the Word if you give heed to physical needs.


Fortunately, Jesus does not advocate an “either/or.” Jesus says those who will inherit the kingdom are the ones who feed the hungry, give drink to those who thirst, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:34-40). But Jesus also says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Jesus didn’t compartmentalize; He synthesized. He loved the whole person. If someone is hungry, we should feed him. If a person is “soul thirsty,” we should bring him or her to the well of Living Water found in Jesus (John 4:14). The apostle John writes, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). And while we serve, we do so “through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:30).


The apostle Paul carried this holistic view even to the deep level of personal holiness. It’s not only our body that is to remain pure, it is our “whole spirit and soul and body [that is to] be blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).


We are to minister to the whole person with the whole Gospel for the whole purpose of being conformed to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29). If it takes a “Hunger Games” fast to drive home that point, so be it. Whatever it takes, may we take resources and the life and love of Jesus so that others will hunger and thirst no more (Revelation 7:16).

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