From the sermon series “Four Examples of Unbelief”
- The Unbelief of Friends and Family (acquaintances). 6:1-6; 53-56; (note Vv., 5-6).
- The Unbelief of the Towns and Villages. 6:7-13; (Note v.11).
- The Unbelief of Herod Antipas. 6:14-32; (Note v. 20).
- The Unbelief of the Disciples. 6:33-44; (Note v.52).
Outline: Example 4- “Sheep without A Shepherd”
- Sheep without a Shepherd vv. 33-34
- Disciples without Faith vv. 35-38
- A Shepherd without a Doubt 39-44
Read the text.
Point to note: My goal today is not to bash any one group of people. I want you to understand I am trying to understand this culture so that we can reach them. I welcome your comments on this message. Know that as I preach today that I am not being critical, but trying to be educational, for you and for me.
I have been looking for an opportunity to address this subject about declining church attendance for some time now, and this passage allows me to do that. Within this passage, we can see the people, the problem, and the reaction of Jesus as He ministered to His culture. Let’s learn about this together and better reach our culture.
I felt pretty good about some of the changes that we have made to keep up as I looked at this data. We have done well, but I learned a lot these past few weeks in my research, and we can do better in lots of areas.
- Sheep Without a Shepherd: Vv. 33-34
(Sources: Pew Research Institute, Life Way, Barna, Reach-Right, Internet Bloggers)
In 2015, a wide-ranging Pew Research Center study concluded that America was becoming less religious due in part to millennials distancing themselves from organized religion. Only 27 percent of Americans born between 1981 and 1996, the study found, regularly attend weekly services. The Kansas City Star.
Church attendance is dying. Big time. By Carey Nieuwhof
It’s not just reflected in the size of the decline; it’s reflected in the quality and nuances of those numbers.
At least two massive, seismic shifts are at work in our culture causing this. First, we’re moving from Christendom into a post-Christian, post-modern era literally in our lifetime.
Second, we’re in the midst of the biggest technological shift in human history. The digital disruption is happening all around us. The digital disruption isn’t just coming. It’s here. And it’s changing attendance patterns at your church whether you recognize it or not.
The trends and shifts in the Christian Community have already shifted. Much of the data that is available is already old. Researchers have already lost track of the numbers. It was once thought that with the loss of millennials and gen. X and Z that church attendance for these groups had dropped to 20 percent. We now know that it worse. Some say it’s actually down to 15 or 17 percent.
This is across the board in all denominations, protestant, Jewish and, Catholic. What happened? We lost several generations from church. You don’t have to be a genius to figure that out. What is a bit more difficult to do is figure out why. I have been researching this a bit and I want to share with you what I have found.
I think the Pew Research group is on target and also many of the “hip” church bloggers have their finger on the pulse of these missing groups. I have waited for a passage that fits the narrative, and God has provided. I will explain and then offer a few solutions.
George Barna wrote a book called the Second Coming of the Church (c. 1998), and in it, he claimed that one day there would be people that would rather go to church online than to go meet with a group of people in a building. His book was about cyber church. Guess what? We are there. Many mainline theologians and pastors laughed at Barna when he wrote the book. Barna said that if we do not re-invent ourselves as the church we would face virtual oblivion by the mid-21st century.
Can I make a confession? I laughed when I read that too. Guess what? We are there.
How did we get here?
- The political climate has changed the church. It started with Bill Clinton and was fueled by Barak Obama. Our politicians have allowed a culture of American hatred. Once we hate the country, we end up hating God.
- The educational system. Certain political groups, unions, and PACS went after control of the educational system and they have taught our next generations to hate God, country and infected them with a politically correct nature instead of a biblically correct nature. Tolerance has replaced truth.
- Loss of history and American pride. Karl Marx- If you separate people from their history, you can convince then of anything. The professors in the university have taught the trailing generations that the writers of history lied to them. They taught them to hate capitalism and created class warfare. The most wicked places on earth are not in the dark alleyways of our streets, but in the class room. Even evangelical pastors are now questioning the accuracy of scripture based on oppressive white supremacy exegesis. Todays liberal scholars, and many in the SBC, are saying that you have to have a secret knowledge from an oppressed perspective, to be able to interpret the bible correctly. It’s in our seminaries. This my friends is gnostic. It’s regurgitated “Neo-Gnosticism” with a fresh coat of racism attached to it. That’s what intersectionality and Critical Race Theory are all about.
- The growth of technology and its damaging effects. We have lost our sense of community. We are worse than sheep without a shepherd. We are sheep with too many shepherds. Our trailing generations are being led by the hirelings. We are all emotion and no empirical and tested truth. Emotionalism doesn’t think past the first emotional feeling to and end result.
~ Today’s church meets anytime, anywhere, and sometimes. Many millennials today think church is a bit of praise music on their phone and a pod cast sermon. Cyber church is here.
~ If the numbers are correct, and I think they are, there are only 17 percent of millennials associated with organized religion, then you can half that for evangelicals, because that entire 17% is not true evangelical or even Christian.
~ The research shows that millennials do not carry cash. They give on apps on their phones, if they give at all.
~ Traditional church is anchored in set times and set formulas. Millennials scoff at set times and organized worship. Andy Stanley was one of the first preachers to openly make fun of the chairs on the platform and a pulpit where the pastor preaches. Suits and ties have gone by the way side for skinny genes and flowered shirts. Dressing down in more important than the message today.
~ The culture likes what is popular, not what is true. Let’s get this celebrity or do this program or teach this doctrine. Let’s be charismatic or have a great new music style. This culture is more concerned with drinking coffee during the church service than their souls. If it’s trendy and hip it matters not about the truth.
Quote about technology- Not My Words! For example, when people are out of town, they’ll join you online. But through email (yes despised email…people read them every day), online church, social and more things we’ll invent, we can engage people daily in the mission. And we can reach people who haven’t been reached every single day, not just Sunday.
Quote on technology: Not my words!
People may even choose to gather spontaneously on their own…meeting with friends and inviting new people (Watch parties). The expressions are as limited as you want them to be. Even if your church doesn’t decide to invest in the internet, nothing stops anyone in your church or community from following dozens of churches and church leaders who have invested. When it comes to technology, the toothpaste is out of the tube. If only the church would live like this was an opportunity, not an obstacle, our mission could expand dramatically. And yet most churches don’t even spend 5% of their budget on their online presence. How’s that working for you? Online is not a threat to the local church. It’s fuel.
~ Part of the tension we’re all feeling is that we live in a consumer-driven culture. While there’s been a backlash to materialism to some extent among Millennials, Generation Z appears to be embracing it with zeal (so far anyway). We’re not exactly in a post-consumer culture.
Add to that the fact that many churches have a consumer mindset (come to us…we’re the best/coolest/hippest/most orthodox/most whatever), the arrival of digital options means you no longer need to attend to consume.
It’s far easier to consume content on a treadmill or on your commute than it is to drive to a place at a set time and sit in a back row and consume. As a result, many consumers have left and more will leave. It’s just more convenient. (Laodicea)
Consumer Christianity isn’t about what you bring to the mission, it’s about what you can squeeze out of it. A podcast or online broadcast and a few songs on Spotify is just an easier way to do that.
Not much is lost in seeing consumers leave. It was hard to build the future of the church on them anyway.
- Millennials have no affiliation. They don’t like labels. The 18-29 group believe in God, but don’t have a particular affiliation.
- This is depressing. During the Great Depression Americans gave 3.3% of their income to the Church. Today it is 2.5%. A nonprofit research group found that 37% of the church gives nothing. A third of the members are not tithing at all.
- Gallop poles show that in 2008 attendance was at 42% and in 2017 it is 37%.
- Small churches are becoming popular. 46% attend a church that is less than 100 in membership. 50% of all churches have less than 100 members. 40% have between 100-350 members. Only 8% go to a mega-church.
- Pro church tools says that if trends continue that by 2050 church attendance will be half of what it was in 1990. On line attendance will take over. Barna’s predictions are coming true.
Brother Jerry, what do we do with this culture?
- We do what Jesus did. Tap into the curiosity. Many researchers have seen a curiosity in Canada and in the UK. Many are turning to church again because of the empty feeling they are getting from this lack of interest for organized religion. After all, we are still human and need social interaction. We need community. Hopefully this trend will start in America soon.
Jesus saw the people as confused, scattered, and vulnerable. What does a sheep without a shepherd look like? He will be eaten by the wolves. He will not get feed properly. He will not have a leader or a guide in his life. He will miss the flock. A sheep without a shepherd is a sick sheep.
- Tap into the service mentality. The consumers fall away but the servers and givers lean in. We learn to take the small group of millennials we have, and build with them. The salvation we have been given causes us to want to share and serve. Go with the goers.
- Tap into their emptiness. Look at verse 33. The people saw Jesus leaving and they took off after Him. The world has a great need of the soul. We cannot forget that. The people ran ahead of the group to get to Jesus.
- Have compassion and see their needs. Stop blaming them and lead them. Go after them. Verse 34 say Jesus had compassion on them. Splagchnizomai- pity, to have the Bowels yearn. Inward affection, mercy.
- We have to use technology to our advantage. People want online options. Social Media, podcasts, online giving… FB, Instagram and You Tube are still king. Videos get more shares. People still like to share short videos. Pew Research found that is was easier to reach people who had abandoned their faith online, e.g., Those who had bad experiences or who could not find a church they liked. Online tithing increases tithing numbers by 10-25 percent. Some stats are as high as 32%. Millennials don’t carry cash. Many churches are receiving tithes and offerings by apps and credit cards. Research shows that 49% of tithing today is done via credit and debit cards. Swipe and go is important them.
- Remember there are 2.6 billion Christians in this world. That’s a great army.
- Small dying churches that are close together need to merge together.
- Sermons are not outdated. Gallop shows that 76% of church goers still believe that the biblical teaching of God’s word is relevant to their lives.
Why people go to church: Pew Research:
- To be a better person (68%)
- To introduce faith to their kids (69%)
- To find personal comfort (66%)
- Grow closer to God (81%)
- All is not lost. 87% of homes in America have at least one bible in it. Barna found that 58% wanted to spend more time in the bible. 55% use bible apps and smartphones to study the bible.
- For the most part, people are very loyal. 35% of church goers have been at their church between 10-24 years. 27% for 25 years.
Why people leave:
- Pastor leaves (12%)
- Politics (9%)
- Music changes (5%)
- Conflicts 4%)
- Fix your web site. Grey Matter research found that 17 million Americans who don’t regularly attend church visited a church website. Many search for times and programs but 26% were live streaming video and audio. In 2020 a great web site is essential.
So why am I sharing this with you? I want to reach this culture. I believe that Jesus Christ gave us the great commission and we are supposed to obey it. I also believe that it is not hopeless and that if we put effort into it and pray He will guide us into the truth. God will help us reach this culture.
Quote: “The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.”. ― William Booth.
I want to add a bit to that. Church without commitment. We have to turn this tide around. People cannot have a successful Christian life without the body of Christ. It is not biblical for the body to be fragmented. Paul says that the body grows up together.
19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Our culture has lost connection with the head. They have separated from the body. We have to return to body life .
The Chief Shepherd saw the people and described them as sheep without a Shepherd.
- Disciples without Faith. Verses- 35-38
The thing that stands out to me in these verses is that the disciples didn’t trust God to fix their situation. They didn’t know what to do with the people. I don’t either. But I do see that we have to go to God and ask for help.
What was the situation for the Disciples: Same as It is today. We are to use the same truth.
- It was getting late. The day was polus. That means far spent. Plenteous. A lot. The day was about gone. That’s where we are folks. The day is far spent and we must take this seriously. Jesus is coming. The coming of Christ is our greatest leverage.
- The apostle John actually says that we know it is the last hour when people fall away.
- If people in our day knew what time is was, they would run to this church to hear the Word of God.
11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
2 Cor 6:1-2
As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
1 John 2:18-19
18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
~John actually tells us that we know this is the last hour because there is a falling away. So does Paul.
2 Thess. 2:1-3
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition…
- The Place was Desolate- The word Mark uses is eremos. This is a desert. It is a lonely place. It equivalent to Lo Debar in the OT. It where the dead dog Mephibosheth lived… A dry, arid place with no hope. No food and water there. Not much life and lonely.
~ Lord, what are we going to do with all the people in the desert? This is a crisis. Most likely 9 thousand people were there. This is too much for us. We cannot keep up. What do we do? This is out of control.
~ How are we going to reach all these people who are hungry? You feed them… Jesus said. Wait what? I don’t have the right program. I don’t understand them. The job is too big. I don’t have the right food. Lord we don’t have the resources to reach this many lost people.
~ Well, what do you have? Go look. A few fish and bread. You can’t give people what you don’t have. What do we have?
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
~ We have The Bread of Life folks. Ask God to bless it and get after it. It’s not in a program or a popular celebrity. It’s not in technology, crafty sermons, or cute theology that changes with the day.
2 Peter 1:16
16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Sophizo– from the root to be wise. Cunning or to devise. Paul says when they told the people about Jesus they told them the truth. Lost people don’t get saved with made up stories. The truth can and will be hard to swallow… but it’s the bread we have.
~ The prophet Jeremiah didn’t have any friends. I am not here to offend on purpose but if the truth offends, then so be it. People love Joel Osteen because he lies to them. Peace, Peace says the false prophets, but there is no peace without the truth.
26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
~ We are to speak the truth. We do what Jesus did. We can’t change with the culture because it changes every few years. The bread we give is the unchanging gospel. Preachers are to blame for chasing the culture. We taught the world we will adapt to them.
2 Cor 4:3-6
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.
~ We do not preach ourselves but the Cross and the Lord who hung on it. It’s not the name Baptist they don’t like. It’s the name of Jesus they don’t like. The Baptist church has been known for years as the place to go to hear the truth. We are not the church on 138. We are a Baptist church because the doctrines we hold dear are biblical.
There is no good reason to get the opinions of spiritually blind people about how to do church. They are blind. The god of this age has blinded them.
III. A Shepherd without a Doubt: Vv. 39-43
~ What did Jesus do? This moves me. He lifted His head towards heaven and blessed what God gave Him. Jesus had full confidence in His father. We will do the same.
~ Then He did the unthinkable. He took that little morsel of food and gave it to His disciples. Let’s say you are in the wilderness and lost. You have one match. Would you light the fire or give it to another to light the fire. Would you trust others with that precious ember? Jesus gave His away.
~ Give them what He gave us. And it will not run out until He feeds everyone He intends to feed.
Verse 42: Great verse. We must remember, they are hungry. The bread of life is the only thing that satisfies the soul.
There will actually be food left over.
The world is filled with people who have no shepherd.
We must believe and trust in the message we have.
We must lift our eyes to heaven and ask for His blessings.
Closing: Hug some people. You can’t do that on line. That why we meet together.
“Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.”
Most important sources used: