I grew up in a small membership church, of less than 150 attendees each Sunday, and knew nothing else. To me, it was normative. I thought most churches were like mine. It was a happy place where we knew one another. When someone wasn’t there, it seemed like part of the “family” was missing. Then I meet my wife and was exposed to her congregation, a rapidly growing group that topped out at around 700 or so people. It was a very different dynamic. All of a sudden, I was exposed to a different understanding of what it meant to be the church, in many ways. I went from one minster to 5. I went from a small Sunday school class to a rather large gathering. I went from knowing my Pastor to not being able to see him unless I had a prearranged appointment which was hard to get. He was secluded and protected. It was a different world but the teaching ministry was strong and what I needed, so I attended and was blessed in many ways.
When I moved to the East Coast, I was not aware of the social/religious dynamics there. All of a sudden, to be a Baptist meant you were in the vast majority. There was literally a Baptist Church in every small community and plural ones in large communities. Because of the primarily rural culture, the majority of these church were small membership, rural churches. They were the heart of many communities and often the last social institution they had. It was there where generations had worshiped, been baptized, had served faithfully and been laid to rest when their journey was over. They were very special places.
To me, the Small Church is a special place because it is a community where we are “family.” It is not about numbers but about sharing in the lives of others. It is getting to know your fellow worshipper, celebrating their joys and being there to comfort in times of sorrow. I believe the warmth of the fellowship is important.
To me, the Small Church is a special place because of the teaching and preaching. Some of the best foundational preaching comes out of small churches. Pastors know their people and can give that personal touch. All my Pastor knew about me, in the large church that I attended, was that I drove a bus. I believe in Small Churches, Pastors are, on the average, much more personal. They are more involved with their people.
To me, the Small Church is special because of the servants it produces. More Missionaries go to the Mission field from small churches than any other size dynamic because they are nurtured in an environment where they see servanthood modelled and held in high esteem. People in small churches serve because they love the Lord and each other. It is not about performance. It is about humility and love – a chance to live out the marvellous grace they have experienced in Christ. People serve because they are team players.
And to me, the Small Church is special place because of the sense of affection. Loyalty and commitment are valued qualities. Small Church people understand the big picture. They see ministry as obedience and faithfulness. They understand that it is the Lord they are seeking to please to the best of their abilities.
Jesus said, "I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:18 (NIV)). Jesus uses Big Churches, Medium size Churches and Smaller Congregations. It is my belief (easy to tell LOL) that Small Churches are special places that God uses in special ways. Let us thank God for our Church and the opportunities He gives us. “For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV)). Thank you Jesus!
Have a great day – Pastor Ralph