When talking with small-church leaders either in a group or as individuals, I have two questions that I love to ask.
What is the greatest strength of your church?
What is the greatest frustration for your church?
I will deal with the first of these questions in this blog and the second question in my next one.
The first question always produces the same answer. It comes in many different forms:
- We are family.
- Everyone knows everyone else in the church.
- People really care.
- We are a friendly and welcoming church.
- People are missed if they aren’t there.
- There is a high level of love in the church.
All of those answers and others that I have received can be narrowed down to just one word.
Why do people continue to attend the small church even though there are several larger churches with more programs and greater staff within easy driving distance?
Why do some people look for a small church when they move into a new community instead of attending the large church down the road?
They are looking for relationship.
Relationships should be the heart of everything that happens in a small church. I say that they should be because often they aren’t. When a small church fails to focus on making sure that they are a place in which everyone can experience close relationships they are overlooking their greatest strength.
Jesus built his team of disciples through relationships and then entrusted the future of his ministry to them. Paul always worked as part of a team of men (Barnabas, Luke, Silas, Timothy, Titus). At the heart of everything that he did were relationships. God puts us in a church because he knew how much we needed the strength that comes out of relationships.
The key to effective evangelism in the twenty-first century is going to be relationships. As Jesus showed when he was here on earth, relationships are key to making disciples which is the primary task given to the church in the Great Commission. The church was created to be a place in which Christians can be nurtured and supported and that happens best in relationships.
Evangelism, discipleship and nurture all happen best in the context of relationships. Relationships are the heart of small-church life. As long as there is the potential for loving, supportive relationships, any church, regardless of its size, can be used by Jesus Christ to make a powerful impact on its people and its community.