fans and disciples

fishes and loavesJesus feeds about 15,000 people. He uses 5 kaiser rolls and 2 small fish. He ends up with leftovers.

For the people present, it was amazing. They were stuffed. They were thrilled. They decided that he must be The One. They decided to make him king.

They were fans.

Jesus knew how to respond. He sent his disciples to the boat, to the lake, to the other side. And he headed for the hills. He headed for some solitude.

When it was dark and the crowd was asleep and his disciples were in the middle of the lake, he walked out to them. They got to the other side, near home.

In the morning, the crowd realized that Jesus wasn’t there, that they weren’t getting breakfast. They went home, too. And they discovered Jesus.

“When did you get here?” they said.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

And then Jesus started to talk about living bread. In the next few hours, in a couple places, he talked about manna and bread and blood. He talked about what he really came to do.

And the crowd thins out. Some say, “We knew your family. You aren’t so big.” Some say, “You are upsetting what we’ve always been taught.” Some just can’t handle the fact that he’s calling on them to do something, to believe differently, to follow him.

John says,

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Jesus had fans and Jesus had disciples.

  • The fans were there to be entertained and fed.
  • The disciples were there to become like Jesus.
  • The fans were there because they loved when his worldview agreed with theirs.
  • The disciples were there because they loved his worldview.
  • The fans were there because other fans were there.
  • The disciples were there because they had started when no one else was around.
  • The fans were an audience.
  • The disciples were the backstage crew.
  • Fans say, “do that again.”
  • Disciples say, “teach me to do that.”
  • Fans say, “That’s dumb.”
  • Disciples say, “They’ll probably kill us, too, but let’s go with him.”
  • Fans come and go as convenient
  • Disciples live with you.

And of the two?

Disciples change the world; fans just change their rss feeds.

For more on the story, “after it goes great” and “gifts


18 responses to “fans and disciples

  1. This post is awesome. Kind of the difference between friends and acquaintances. My late husband (a very popular guy) told me that you’ll have hundreds, maybe thousands of acquaintances but if you have half a dozen true friends in your life you should consider yourself a lucky person.

  2. I saw this right before seeing yet another demand that I post a message “supporting the troops” to my Facebook profile, or be labeled an unpatriotic jerk who doesn’t care about their sacrifice.

    I was a faithful military wife for six years, till my husband left the Air Force. THAT, is supporting the troops. As is sending letters of encouragement and cookies overseas. Or volunteering at a VA hospital.

    Updating your Facebook status is just… patting yourself on the back for doing almost nothing.

    As you said–it’s the difference between an audience and a backstage crew.

  3. AnnMaria – your husband had it figured out. Thank you.

  4. Jon,

    I’ve always loved how Jesus uses Parables to teach.

    This parable in Book of Matthew is a favorite of mine. In fact, I read a great book by Regi Campbell called, Mentor Like Jesus. I was studying Book of Matthew at same time.

    The two inspired me a month ago to start Fish and for my church small group.

    I have no idea where God wants it to go, but I pray I might be worthy of multiplying fish & bread for folks I love to serve.

    Thanks for great post.

  5. Ah Kat. You get to say what I can’t, with credibility. Thank you!

  6. matthew – i’ve heard of that book, but not read it. Thanks for the additional connection. And I’m not sure it’s about being worthy. I think it”s more about just starting to break what is handed to you.

  7. Jon,

    Great thoughts on this passage and a great reminder of who and what I am called to be.


  8. “Disciples change the world; fans just change their rss feeds.” Perfect.

  9. Thanks Jon for so clearly outlining the distinction between fans and disciples.

    I’ve been thinking along these lines too in terms of what I’m doing with increasing awareness of accessibility. Fans are great: they provide the enthusiasm and spread the word, in other words, they do the light-lifting. Disciples take action and make change happen. Both are needed and much appreciated. However, I would like to find ways to support the disciples more. Suggestions are most welcome! đŸ˜‰

  10. Jeff, thanks for stopping by!

  11. AH, dear Glenda. If I knew, I’d tell you. Except I think it means finding someone who is already showing signs of doing well. And then asking them if you can help them do better. And then teaching them, not only to pay attention to accessibility, but to show other people how to do it.

    Even in the online realm, it may mean finding a blog, not about accessibility, which models what you are coaching people to do. Ask that blogger if they are intentionally that effective. Ask if they would be willing to talk about it, to write a post for you about what they are doing.

    That’s a start, anyway. I’ll keep thinking.

  12. Jon, incredible teaching. Your post was not only relevant to our times but caused me to examine my own motivation exactly as scripture always does.

  13. Karen – thanks. I’m doing my own inventory as well.

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  15. Hi John,

    I grew up in the church in Jamaica and I went to a Christian high school with the Chaplain preaching every Wednesday before our classes began. I have read the Bible by myself one summer, though I didn’t understand many things. I have participated in a Bible study program for one year.

    I have always loved that story, and have heard pastors preaching about that parable, but never have I heard any make a distinction between disciple and fan. Very well done, and thank you for that.

    If we take this further, say for example in the social media context, disciples would be “stickier.” Would the word disciple be politically correct, and would one want to be perceived as “the one” with the disciples?

    In this context, would you rather have fans or disciples?

    Avil Beckford @avilbeckford

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