A friend recently sent me a link to an interview with Ed Stetzer in which he made a rather startling statement that has been on my mind ever since I head it.
He was speaking at a pastors’ conference at Saddleback Valley Community Church. Of the nine or ten speakers there he was the only one who was not pastoring a church with more than ten thousand people in attendance on a Sunday morning. He was speaking to three or four thousand attendees many of whom were pastors of small churches with at most a few hundred people at worship.
He warned the people not to believe everything that they heard at that conference and then he made this statement
“What is being presented is like ministry pornography for you. It is an unrealistic depiction of an experience that you are never going to have that distracts you from the real and glorious thing.”
That statement powerfully captures the problem with almost all church-growth conferences. Thousands of people from small churches attend and are presented with an unreal picture of what a church should be. They are told if they just follow the speaker’s example their church will grow like magic and they will join the ranks of the mega-church pastors.
The problem is that it simply is not realistic. Church-growth conferences don’t produce more mega-churches. They do, however, produce a higher level of dissatisfaction with the small churches that the attendees are currently leading.
Five positives to consider about the church that you currently serve
Please note that I am not saying that there are no problems in your church. I am not saying that God won’t call you to another location. I am not saying that you will not have frustrations and challenges in your small-church setting.
I am saying that when you look at your church don’t compare it to the Meeting House or People’s Church or any of the other very large churches in Canada. Look at it for what it is and consider these things in your analysis.
- It is the church to which God called you. Every pastor I know claims to have heard God’s call to the church where they are serving. If he called you, he must have a reason for that call. God doesn’t always call us to the easy place but he does call us to the place in which he wants us to be.
- It is the church Christ loves. However frustrated and perhaps even angry you might become at times with the church in which you serve, it is part of the church that Jesus loves. It is part of the bride that is being prepared for the bridegroom.
- It consists of people that Jesus said were to become his disciples. The task of the church is to make disciples. As a leader the only people you can lead through this process of growth are the people whom God has given you. However difficult they may be at times, God wants to change their lives through you.
- It is made up of people for whom Jesus died. Whatever else might be said about the church as a whole or about individual members, they are people whom Jesus loved enough to go to the cross for them.
- It is made up of sinners just like you. There will never be a perfect church until Jesus returns to complete his work in each one of us. The church is always made up of forgiven sinners who still make mistakes. That is okay though because they are led by forgiven sinners who still make mistakes.
I have attended many church-growth conferences. I have listened to many mega-church preachers tell how to grow my church. Over the years I have learned to find the nuggets of truth in what they present without getting sucked into the dream that God wants my church to be a mega-church.
God must love small churches because all over the world and all throughout the centuries he made thousands of them. God has put you into one of those churches that he loves and until he calls you some place else, he wants to use you to change lives right there where you are.