Posted: 4/5/19 at 2:20pm. Column by Ed Jordan.
This past weekend our church hosted an associational conference which addressed the idea of small churches.
The majority of churches in America have less than 150 attendees, which makes small churches the biggest kind of church. I have spent most of my life attending—or serving in—small churches, so I was highly interested in this conference topic.
We live in a culture that often thinks bigger is better. There are some things about being a big church which are appealing, such as having multiple staff to contribute to more ministries and services. They often have greater financial resources, more people to accomplish tasks, and supposedly therefore more options to offer a buffet of services.
Big churches also have some not–so–positive aspects. The individual can get lost in the crowd. In a crowd of people it is often difficult to feel at home, to know others, and to get to know others.
One of the presenters in our conference shared her testimony of growing up in a smaller church and how it impacted the lives of the attendees. It was an amazing thing.
This woman grew up loving the Lord and becoming involved in college ministries to students. The little church of under 40 people nurtured many new Christians who came to know Christ through their interactions with the people there.
The church was like a second family to the attendees, and this woman was wearing a cross given to her by one of the members when she graduated from high school. Those people made an impact on her life, and the depth of their love and relationships continue to make an impact on her today.
Out of that little church, 20 people ended up going into various ministry vocations through the years. But the influence goes on. Some 30 years after this woman left that church to invest her life in student ministries, the influence and witness of those people who influenced her continues in and through her life, and now it continues through the lives of the college students whom she influences.
Sometimes we can look at our lives and feel underwhelmed, thinking that we have not become famous, or wealthy, or risen in a large organization. The world wants to say that since you have been involved in the small things of life, you lived a small life. But that is not a valid evaluation.
If we are faithfully following what God leads us to do, and doing what God tells us to do, our lives are involved in accomplishing big things.
In John 6, thousands of people were following Jesus. They were hungry, and Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down so they could feed them. He asked them where they could buy bread to feed them. Philip said that a half a year’s salary wouldn’t buy enough bread for each person to receive even a little. Andrew told Jesus, in John 6:9 (NASB95):
“There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”
Sometimes this is the way smaller churches feel, as they encounter so many people who need to know God, and they have so few resources to accomplish the mission. Sometimes this is the way we all feel in life.
We feel way too inadequate to accomplish what God asks of us. We feel like that little boy, with a little lunch of bread rolls and sardines. And then we look at ourselves say: “Who am I, and what are these resources, in the face of such great challenges and opportunities?”
Jesus took the little boy’s lunch, thanked God for it, and began breaking the bread and fish. The disciples took the bread and fish to the people—5,000 men, plus women and children. Everyone ate until they were full. Jesus told the disciples to collect the leftovers so that none would be wasted. They filled twelve bushel baskets full of leftovers.
So it’s not the size of what we have; it’s whose hands hold those resources. The little boy’s little lunch could feed only one little boy if it remained in his hands. But when he put it in Jesus’ hands, it impacted more than 12,000 people (plus the millions of people through the years who have learned and been affected by reading this miracle).
Are you feeling small and incidental in your life? Why not place your life into Jesus’ hands and see what great things God will accomplish through you? God can do great things through willing lives.