I have started reading a book by Karl Vaters entitled Small Church Essentials. I just read a few pages when one paragraph caught my attention. Vaders says this:
“Instead in the last generation or two, we’ve made big- and megachurches the standard, one that most churches will never reach and one, I believe, many of us aren’t supposed to reach because we are called to be small”
“Called to be small.”
That is what caught my attention. This is my second time through the book so I had obviously read this paragraph before but the first time through it didn’t grab me like it did this time.
“Called to be small.”
Is that possible? Could it be that God’s call on my church is for it to be small? Could it be that part of God’s design for the church is for it to be small because that is the most effective size for it to accomplish what it is called to accomplish? Could it be that any efforts to turn it into a large church could be contrary to what God has in mind?
That last question is what got my mind working overtime. Could it be that God’s plan for my church is that is should remain small? Could it be that by buying into the latest church growth solution, I am running contrary to what God has in mind for the church in which I serve?
Called to be impactful
I am not suggesting that we are to be satisfied with the status quo. I once heard “status quo” defined as the “mess that we are in” and there is always an element of truth in that. No church is perfect which means that leadership always needs to be asking themselves what needs to be changed. We do need to be sure, however, that the measuring stick that we are using is the right one. I want to suggest that numerical size should never be the measuring stick that we use.
We are called to be impactful and for some churches that might mean that they are the perfect size right now to make the impact that God has called them to make. We need to ask what kind of impact does God want us to make right now and not what kind of impact will we be able to make when we are larger.
Small is the norm
It is easy to forget that the vast majority of churches around the world and down through history have been small. Does God call some churches to be small? He must because there have certainly been a lot of them over the years. I have had the opportunity to visit churches in Canada, the United States, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Bolivia, Austria, Turkey, Kenya and Rwanda. The church that I attended in each of those countries was small. Small really is the norm.
Those churches in all of those countries are part of the worldwide church of which Jesus is the Head but their own local expression of that worldwide church did not have many people attending. I don’t believe that all those churches are out of God’s will because they are not large. Most of them are called to be small.
There are approximately 8,000 small evangelical churches in Canada. Your church probably is one of them. If each of those small churches averaged 65 in Sunday morning attendance, there would be more than a half million people attending a small church every Sunday. You may be small but you are part of something that is very big.
Maybe, just maybe, as God puts all the pieces together in the puzzle that is the church in Canada, you are called to be a small piece. If you are called to be small, you need to be the best small piece that you can possibly be.
I haven’t read Karl Vaters’ book, Rod, but I appreciate your perspective: “You may be small but you are part of something that is very big.” It reminds me of another pastor I know who says to his small church: “AWe are a small group, but we can still do great things.”