As I mentioned in my last blog post there are two questions that I love to ask small-church leaders.
Question # 1
What is the greatest strength of your church?
Answer # 1
The answer always has something to do with relationships.
Question # 2
What is the greatest frustration that you face in a small church?
Answer # 2
The answers take different forms but almost always they can be summed up in three words: Lack of resources
- We don’t have enough people.
- We struggle every year raising sufficient funds to meet the budget.
- We need more gifted people to fill all the positions in the church.
- We don’t have a large enough building.
I spent twenty-three years serving as the pastor of small churches. I know the frustrations that limited resources cause but I want to suggest that many of those frustrations can be removed if church leaders learn to look in the right direction. They need to stop looking at what they don’t have and start focusing on what they do have.
First, every church possesses the greatest treasure available anywhere today – a relationship with Jesus Christ. My following quote should be read by every church leader every single day that the person is in leadership. Without an understanding of the truth of this quote you will never grasp the full value of your church. It comes from a book written by E.Stanley Jones.
In the person of Jesus Christ the Christian church holds within itself a motive and power that does produce changed character. So Jesus Christ is the centre of worth and hope of the Christian church. We have this treasure in an earthen vessel. Don’t point to the earthen vessel – its cracks, its outworn inscriptions, its outworn shape, its unmodern appearance, but rather look at what it holds. It holds the person of Jesus Christ. As long as it holds him, it holds the most precious, the most potent, and the most present value that this universe holds, barring none.
Whatever your church might look like, remember that it is the earthen vessel that holds Jesus Christ and it is that relationship that gives value and meaning to your church. What small-church leaders need to remind themselves of is that the large church down the road with it multiple staff and its abundance of programs does not hold any more of Jesus than the small church that they are leading.
Second, relationships are the strength of the small church and those relationships hold great potential for ministry in the twenty-first century. Instead of lamenting what they don’t have small churches need to ask themselves how they can maximize the relationships that should be a natural part of small-church life.
When I was a young teenager I attended a small church in Northern Ontario. I had a Sunday school teacher who to be brutally frank was not a very good teacher. He had a couple of subjects that he returned to again and again ignoring almost everything else that the Bible taught. He did, however, have one important quality. He loved the group of boys in his class. Whether it was picnics in the summer or parties at his house in the winter or just one-on-one chats any time of the year that relationship that he built with me as a young person helped to shape my life. A half century has passed since I was a member of his class and I still thank God for the part that he played in making me who I am today.
It is all a matter of perspective. Leaders can choose to look at those things that they don’t have or they can rejoice that they are in relationship with Jesus Christ and have the potential to form life-changing relationships with people.