An Unlucky Parable

…excerpt from the recently discovered Gospel According to Bob (not a real gospel…)

Chapter 6, vss. 1-41

One day, the disciples noted Jesus deep in prayer.  On occasion, Jesus would open his eyes, draw figures in the sand, then return to prayer.  His reflections lasted many minutes.  Finally, Simon (also called Peter) interrupted him, saying, “Master, you seem vexed and deeply concerned.  Is there something we might help you with?”  Jesus looked at Simon, sighed, and said, “I am indeed vexed.  Our band has remained fixed at twelve for some time.  I am thinking how we might expand.”

“You mean, add a disciple?” asked Peter (also called Simon)

“Well, no, at least two disciples.  Thirteen would be unlucky.  But we need to grow.  Twelve just doesn’t seem like enough.  The Midianites now have sixteen and the Peruzites have almost two dozen.  I cannot seem to figure out what to do to get more disciples.” explained Jesus.

“Well, you could lower the expectations a mite,” muttered Judas.  “Leave family and home, give everything away, take up your cross and follow me — a bit stiff, and not a big draw…”

“But we do well enough,” said Peter (a fan of Paul Simon)  “Why do we need more?”

“More is better,” Jesus patiently explained.  “Think how impressive a hoard of disciples would be.”

“But what about the sick and the poor?  Preaching and teaching?” exclaimed Simon (a fan of Peter, Paul & Mary)

“Oh, they’ll still be here once we grow.  And just think how much better we will serve them when there are more of us!”

“So, a small group is what, chopped liver?  We can’t do your ministry because there are too few of us?  We don’t have any resources?” asked Peter (Simonized)

“Well, I don’t mean that.  You do fine.  I just think it’s time to grow a bit.  Focus on the numbers.  The bigger we get, the better we get!”

“And so how do you propose attracting new disciples?’ asked John.

“Advertising!” shouted Jesus.  “Look at all the empty sky around here.  It just cries out for billboards.  And look at this — I made it last night.”

John held a piece of parchment with a hook on the end.  “Uhm, it’s nice, but what is it?”

“It’s a door-hanger,” proclaimed Jesus.  “You put them on doorknobs, then run away.”

“What’s a doorknob?” asked Simon (with comprehension Petering out)

“Look.  Never mind.  Someday these will be big.  What matters most is getting more people.  I am certain the very next disciple we get will be the best one ever!” said Jesus.

“I doubt that,” chimed in Thomas.  “And, by the way, we are already thirteen if you count You.  I thought that was unlucky.”

“It probably will be for one of us.  Anyway, come on it’s almost Passover and we need to get to Jerusalem,” remarked Jesus.

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4 replies

  1. I guess I should have read this before I went to hang up 600 door-hangers today. I was actually just finishing a blog about my adventures when your post came into my inbox.

    I’d love any insights you have on strategies for creating stepping stones to coax your parishioners into invitational evangelism. It’s easy to preach, but much harder to put into practice.

    • I agree with you Morgan. It’s easy to preach the things we should do but getting people to do them and take ownership is another. Especially when they look at you and say, “that’s the pastor’s job, not mine.”

    • What makes it difficult is that for the contemporary church it means changing the whole culture. “Church” became a product/service in the 20th century, not community. We began hiring “professionals” to “do” ministry for the congregation rather than having them cultivate the skills and practices in the congregation. But I also know of two churches that worked to get just a few people to make a commitment to invite at least one person a month to come with them to church — and in both cases, the churches gained new members in the double-digits. The not-to-subtle subtext of my little story is that regardless of the church size, it still only takes a handful to make a huge difference, and if the focus stays on ministry and everyone shares responsibility to support it, the numbers take care of themselves. (And there’s nothing wrong with door-hangers, but in the vast majority of instances, the return on investment pales in comparison to good, old, simple personal invitation. If you can find even three or four people willing to be equipped, encouraged, and sent out to invite people to church, it can make a huge difference. Malcolm Gladwell’s, Tipping Point, works in the church, too. I got an email last month from a pastor who shared that one of his parishoners brought in a friend who was a key connector/influencer, and this young woman alone has brought fifty new people into the church. This is not an unusual story — newcomers are often more excited about the church they’ve found than long-established people are to share theirs. It really is about generating some positive energy that is attractive enough to get people to connect — and it doesn’t take more than a handful of people to get it going.

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