Garth Brooks made quite a splash in the music industry. Besides being known for creative song writing such as ‘Friends in low places’ Garth set himself apart as a stage entertainer. In one interview he said something like “I stand on the stage and think how do I reach the person in that chair or the person over there. I don’t think about the crowd, I think about reaching the one person.” Being popular is the goal of any entertainer and that approach made Garth popular among music fans.
It is, or at least should be, the goal of any Christian organization to reach as many as possible with the gospel message. But as a church culture that embraces large audiences, have we lost sight of the need to focus on individuals? After all, God sets aside certain individuals as leaders by lifting the person into a position of authority.
Sometimes God chooses certain individuals to be an example of faith to others. Sometimes that person is not from our line of religious thinking. Jesus reminded the religious leaders of the day about this in Luke 4:25-27; Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. And many in Israel had leprosy in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”
When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.
Another one of my favorite examples of reaching out to the one person is found in Acts 8. This is the story of the evangelist Philip directed to an Ethiopian eunuch that was the treasurer of the Queen of Ethiopia. As a called evangelist, Philip was most likely accustom to preaching to crowds. In this interaction Philip leads the man to faith in Christ and baptizes him that day. History suggests it was that Ethiopian who brought the church to Ethiopia.
More than once people have apologetically said “there is usually more people attending this service” at venues I have been blessed with speaking at. As a preacher it is not my desire to entertain the crowds. Actually my prayer is “Lord, may this message be heard by the person that needs to hear it”. I’ll preach to the small groups with no pay for the rest of my days if it means reaching the person God wants reached in that moment. It is not possible for me to know what God has planned and nobody ever made it to heaven by winning a popularity contest.
Rev. Burt Schwab