It seems hard to believe but this is my 100th post since I began writing this blog. It is my prayer that what I have written has been both an encouragement and a challenge to you.
I hope that it has been an encouragement because I know that leading a small church is not an easy task. I am sure that you can use all of the encouragement that you can get.
I hope that it has been a challenge because part of leadership in any setting is to be continually growing and developing in our walk with God and our leadership skills.
As for encouragement here are five facts that I hope that you will find encouraging as you face the challenges of leadership.
- You are not alone. Seventy-five percent of the churches in Canada are small. In evangelical circles alone that amounts to about 8,000 small churches. When you feel like no one cares, remember that there are thousands of other leaders doing what you are doing.
- You are not alone in the problems that you face. I have the privilege of speaking with leaders all across Canada and the one thing that they have in common is that they all face problems.
- You are not alone in the leadership you provide. Jesus in ultimately building his church (Matt. 16:18). Jesus is head of his church (Eph. 5:23). The Holy Spirit is the power source for the church (Acts 1:8). You are a child of the loving God whom you serve (1 John 3:1).
- You are not alone in the challenge that you face. In the Great Commission Jesus calls the church to make disciples and then he reminds us that he is with those who are making those disciples right to the end of the age.
- You are not alone in the disappointments that you face. We some times read the New Testament like it is one continuous list of great triumphs and victories. Those are certainly found there but the Bible records the failures as well. Paul wrote his letters to the church in Corinth to correct a series of horrific problems that that church faced. John wrote his third epistle partly because someone named Diotrephes was creating problems both for him and the church. Paul wrote to the Galatians because their theology was seriously wrong. James deals with problem after problem in his letter to Jewish Christians. First-century churches had their problems too.
I hope that you have been encouraged by what I just wrote. Now I want to challenge you. I think that for the most part the church has become content with comfortable Christianity when we have been called to radical discipleship. Here are some areas in which we all need to be challenged.
- A call to discipleship is a call to a radical lifestyle. The New Testament doesn’t know any other kind of disciple. Jesus, in his teaching, made that very clear. Paul demonstrated it in his ministry. The disciples taught it and ultimately demonstrated it by dying for their faith. My challenge to you as leaders in small churches is to be an example of radical discipleship as you teach it to your people.
- Leadership isn’t a job. It is a trust. If you are a pastor or an elder or a deacon or serving under some other title in a church, the people in your church have been given to you in trust. You have been given the responsibility for their spiritual growth. You are a steward who has been entrusted with God’s most precious possession. You are the sculptor responsible for the shaping and molding of those people into the image that God wants them to be. I know that ultimately the Hold Spirit does the work in people but he uses other people as his instruments to do the job. My challenge to you as leaders in small churches is to see every person as part of the trust that God has given you as his steward.
- Be sure to unpack your bags. In too many cases leadership in a small church is seen as a stepping stone to something better (i.e. a larger church, an urban church). God has not called you to any church other than the one that you are currently serving. It is the group of people whom you are currently serving that God has entrusted to you, not the group that you hope some day to serve. My challenge to you as leaders in small churches is not to look beyond the place where you are and to leave the future in God’s hands to lead you some place else when it is his timing.
- Strive for impact and not success. We have been told for so long that the successful church is the one that is growing numerically which for too many people has become the goal. The question that defines their ministry is how do I get more people to attend this church. The question that should define their ministry is how do I make an impact on these people whom God has entrusted to me so that they in turn can make an impact on other people. This was the ministry that Jesus engaged in for the three years of his public life. He invested his life into the lives of twelve men so that they in turn could invest their lives into others. He was intent on transformation, not numbers. My challenge to you as leaders in small churches is to concentrate on impacting the people you have so that they in turn are impacting others.
- Don’t lose sight of the value of a single human being. One of the turning points in my life was when I realized that I wasn’t called to pastor crowds of people. I was called to impact people one person at a time. The good news is that a leader can do that every bit as effectively in a small church as a large one. My challenge to you as small church leaders is to see each person as an individual whom you can potentially impact for Christ.
I love small churches. I appreciate middle-sized and large churches but I love the small ones. It is my prayer that in some way this blog is serving you as the leader of a small church. If you have a couple of spare moments, I would love to hear from you as to how this blog might have encouraged or challenged you over the past one hundred entries.