A good general rule of thumb is this: if the crowds are for something, you should be against it. Not always, but often. The crowd usually gets it wrong, and the crowd will take you in a direction you really don’t want to be going in. Just think about the crowds, the masses, who elected Hitler in Germany in the 1930s.
It is usually the brave individual who is resisting the crowd who is to be commended. This is not just true of life in general, but of Christianity in particular. The whole thrust of the Christian faith is to go against the crowd, to stand alone if need be with a rejected Saviour.
Church history makes this quite clear, as does the Bible itself. The crowds tend to reject God, reject his messengers, and reject his truth. This should come as no surprise of course. The truth of God will always be unpopular with the bulk of men.
And no matter how well represented or packaged or delivered, the truth of God will still get people upset. Some rather clueless Christians think that if we are just really nice, and try really hard not to offend people, and seek to be real soft and sweet, the masses will positively respond to us and our message.
Umm, no. We know this is not the case. How so? Because the most loving, gracious and kind person ever to walk the face of the earth still managed to get the crowds going ballistic over him. I refer of course to Jesus. No matter how much he loved, cared and showed compassion, the crowds rejected him.
My regular reading in Scripture today came up with a very clear example of this. Consider what we find in Mark 15:6-15:
Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did. “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. “Crucify him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
So what did the crowds think about Jesus? “Crucify him!” And what did the leaders of the day seek to do? They wanted “to satisfy the crowd”. That is always the way it is. The crowd hates truth, and leaders seek to give the crowds what they want.
Now we expect pagan kings, rulers and power-hungry tyrants to want to keep the masses happy. The Romans placated the crowds by giving them bread and circuses. We are no different today. People in the West have all their basic needs met, and live in a culture where we have all been drugged with non-stop amusements and entertainment.
It works like a charm. But the tragic thing is, in so many churches in the West today we find exactly the same thing. We have leaders wanting to satisfy the crowds. They tell them exactly what they want to hear, instead of giving them what they need to hear.
While many of our modern churches have failed miserably to proclaim the simple biblical gospel of Jesus Christ, they have perfected the art of entertainment. Many churches today can compete with any secular entertainment business. We have spent zillions of dollars and zillions of hours learning how to be expert entertainers.
Whatever amusements the world can throw our way, we have managed to copy just about all of it. Thus today there is little difference between some secular rock concert and what takes place in many of our churches. We have decided that our main goal is to keep the masses happy and entertained.
We want to satisfy the demands of the crowd – just like Pilate did. He will one day give an account before God for his actions. But so too will our entertainment-mad, celebrity-driven church leaders who also have a deep desire to cater for just what the crowds like.
All the great men of God have known the folly and the futility of seeking to keep the crowds happy. They knew that to be popular with the masses was likely a sure sign of being unpopular with God. They decided that siding with God was always the proper choice to make.
So let me conclude with just a few quotes along these lines. Let them sink deeply into your soul:
“I would never believe that we were on the Lord’s side if all men were on our side.” Spurgeon
“We must give up the vain idea of trying to please everybody. That is impossible, and the attempt is a mere waste of time. We must be content to walk in Christ’s steps, and let the world say what it likes.” J.C. Ryle
“Why in God’s name do you expect to be accepted everywhere? How is it the world couldn’t get on with the holiest man that ever lived, and it can get on with you and me?” Leonard Ravenhill
“The desire to please may be commendable enough under certain circumstances, but when pleasing men means displeasing God it is an unqualified evil and should have no place in the Christian’s heart. To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.” A.W. Tozer