As I write this, a new year is just a few days away. One of the things that I love about time is that it is full of new beginnings.
Every new day is a new beginning. Every time that we crawl out of bed in the morning, we have another chance to use our day wisely. I realize that the word “crawl” is more appropriate for some than for others.
Every new week is another period of time that is full of possibilities. As a pastor my new week always began right after the Sunday morning service when I had preached the sermon that I had been working on for the past seven days. Monday was one of my favourite days because I could plan for the week ahead knowing that God had some good things in store.
Every new year is a massive new beginning. A whole year is gone with its blessings and frustrations but a new year lies ahead full of possibilities. I don’t have to make the same mistakes that I made in the past year. I can recreate my vision for the church and my ministry in it.
With that in mind I thought that it would be appropriate to begin the new year with a note of encouragement.
One of my favourite quotes
I read the following quote quite a few years ago but it has stuck with me and has become one of my favourites.
I have two fundamental convictions about small churches. First, they are the right size to be all that God calls a church to be. They are not premature, illegitimate, malnourished, or incomplete versions of “real” churches. Second, they are a different breed of church. A small church is as different from a large church as a Pekingese is from a Saint Bernard. They look, feel, think, and act differently. Differences in size yield crucial differences in form and function. Ministry, not in tune with and tailored to these churches’ differences in size, is doomed to failure. (David R. Ray, The Big Small Church Book viii)
Thinking about that quote is not a bad way to begin a new year.
You are the right size to be all that God calls a church to be.
Every small-church leader needs to be reminded of this fact every once in a while. You are not an “incomplete” church. You are exactly the size that God wants to use in your setting right at this moment.
It doesn’t mean that you won’t grow in the future but you are the size that you are right now and that is exactly the size that God wants to use. As this new year begins, you are the right size for the ministry to which God has called you.
A lot of time can be wasted when a small church tries to figure out how it can become a large church. A lot of resources have been wasted when churches have looked for programs that are designed to make them larger. The sad part is that the time and resources that were wasted could have been used in planning how a small church could be the best small church that it could be.
The danger comes when a small church decides that it can’t make an impact because it is small. As this year unfolds I would challenge you to put your time and resources not into becoming larger but into being a church that makes an impact on people’s lives right where you currently are. If you are to grow, God will decide how much growth is appropriate.
A Pekingese is not a Saint Bernard
You have probably already notice this but a Pekingese is not a Saint Bernard. While both are members of the dog family that is about all that they have in common. If you have any doubt about that just wait until the Saint Bernard tries crawling up on your lap.
The interesting thing is that there are people who like both breeds. Pekingese lovers do not go looking for a Saint Bernard when they decide that they want a dog and Saint Bernard lovers hardly even want to admit that a Pekingese really is a dog.
As Ray says in the above quote small churches are completely different entities from large ones. They act differently. They make decisions differently. They provide different types of resources to their members.
Most people who attend small churches shy away from what they perceive to be the impersonal nature of the large church. Please note that I am not saying that large churches are impersonal but they are often perceived that way by people in small churches.
The people who attend large churches too often see the small church as a failure. They aren’t growing numerically like the large church is and therefore in their minds there is something wrong.
My message is that rather than be critical of either size church, let’s appreciate the strengths of both and allow each to be what it is – a body of believers with strengths and weaknesses that are peculiar to that size of church.
The problem comes when the Pekingese is encouraged to think like a Saint Bernard. There are things that a Pekingese simply can’t do because of its size but remember this: There are also things that a Saint Bernard can’t do because it is too big.
The secret is for a Pekingese to be the best small dog that it can be. The secret to being the best is to recognize that at this time you are a small church. You need to act and think and plan like a small church.
A final note
As you enter into the new year there is something that I would encourage you to do. There are six words that I would encourage you to ban from your midst for the entire year ahead.
Here they are.
“We are just a small church.”
You are not just a small church. You are a part of the body of Christ. You are valued members of his family. You are a group of people who in 2017 have the opportunity to impact lives for Jesus Christ.
That is what you have been called to do and you are exactly the right size to do that in the year ahead that God has given you.