I’m still pondering a column my brother Gene wrote for the Amarillo Globe News over a decade ago.
Gene begins: “Can I be honest with you without leaving the wrong impression? Can I share one of my most constant concerns without making you think I am airing sour grapes or criticizing your choice of churches?”
My short answer to him would be, “I doubt it.”
Oh, I agree with him completely, and I think he’s right on target. But I’ll betcha he made some folks mad. Some who didn’t understand him. Some who did.
Gene continues: “For more than 40 years I have ministered to small congregations that never seem to have enough people to fill some high-need categories.
“If my church had three or four more young families, we might have enough toddlers to make Bible study fun for Ethan.
“Right now our music minister would almost kill for a tenor or two, . . .
“Small churches always have gaps in age groups and abilities. . . . In most tiny churches just a handful of new people would make a huge difference in that congregation’s sense of well-being and vitality.
“All of this makes me wonder . . . I wonder why so many Christians who love the Lord and his church choose to cluster in huge churches where their talents may not be used or needed.
“I wonder if worshipers whose voices get lost in the multitude have any idea how much their notes of praise could enrich the worship experience of a smaller band of believers.”
Do those who make a church choice largely based on what the huge church can do for them “have any idea how rewarding it could feel to know that their personal contribution to the life of a smaller church was making an obvious difference in that church’s ability to serve the Lord and his people,” perhaps even to exist?
“I praise God for the large, active congregations that bless our community. But in my pastor’s heart I have a passion for family-sized churches . . . If you are looking for a church, let me encourage you to find one that really needs you. Think small.”
Folks, in my little great community, all of our churches are small compared to the Walmart Supercenter-style super-sized churches of many cities. I’m thankful when churches of any size, including mega-churches, truly serve the Lord and serve well (but I confess the utter disgust and revulsion I feel toward some large churches who do their best to ravage small ones and do so devilishly in God’s name).
Large churches can offer whole catalogs full of programs. Little churches can never match those.
Unless you want to know for sure that you matter. Unless you want your presence, your energy, your time, your treasure, your talents, your family, to make a genuine difference. If you want to be loved intensely and be blessed immensely by relationships, real and deep and worth more than gold, you might be very wise to think small.
I have days when I think that surely in this hemisphere some people exist who still believe that. On those days, I’m greedy enough to hope that our little church gets both of them.
You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!
Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.