Currently, I am a part of a book discussion group online with some ministers who are serving in small Churches. All of us lead Churches under 250 in attendance that are a part of our brotherhood of Churches, and each leader attended my alma mater Ozark Christian College. Together we are reading the book Small Church Essentials by Karl Vaters. We are all reading the book on our own, and every other week we have a video conference to discuss what we are learning.
Yesterday our group had a conversation about chapters 4-5 of the book. Basically, smaller Churches find their greatest strength in relationships while larger Churches find their strength in vision and programs. The two sizes of Church are both serving the Lord, but they are unique in the connection people feel. The discussion yesterday focused my thinking on three different issues.
1. Do people in small Churches realize the power of relationship? It was stated by these preachers in almost those exact words. Do you, as a member of a Church under 250, realize the potential of connecting to other believers in the Church. A small Church is a great place to meet new people and share your life with other members of your community. This is a place where people want to share life with you.
2. Do people know the benefits of these relationships in Church? On Sunday I was asked a question from a lady in our congregation after the program. She invited a friend to Church, and he responded by saying something like “I can worship God anywhere, why should I go to Church.” She asked me, “What should I say to that?” I told her that Jesus says the Old Testament hangs on two commands. One is to love God, but the other is to love our neighbor. A Church community is a place where we can fulfill both the first and the second command. The Church is the place where we can care for sick and hurting people. We can also receive care when we need it. The Church is the place where can express love and be loved by people of like faith. All of us want to feel important to someone; the Church community exposes us to people who are trying to show us our value and worth in Jesus.
3. Do people realize that the primary relationship they need is with other believers and not the preacher? To say the strength of a small Church is in relationships leads some people to believe that everyone needs a relationship with the leader. That is just not true, in fact, it can be detrimental to your spiritual growth. Let me be honest, I love the Church I am serving, but one of three things are going to happen. I am either going to have God call me somewhere else, I will be called home to heaven, and if not, one day I hope to retire. I am going to move, die or quit as a leader of the Church one day if the Lord continues to delay his return. What then? Through the years I have watched small Churches ride the roller coaster of growth and decline based on the leader. Quite often this is because they are the primary relationship for most people in the Church. This is a dangerous position for you and the preacher. The relationships we need are with people within the Church that we can walk through all of life together.
Having been the pastor of a small Church for almost 25 years, I totally agree it is a great place to build strong relationships for a lifetime. I hope you know that, understand that and are trying to connect with people in the name of Jesus. If not, we will get together again this Sunday morning, and it would be a great time to start to get to know someone new.