Do you ever feel like you are all alone? If you are a leader in a small, evangelical church, it is easy to feel like you are. This morning I want to encourage you by telling you that you are far from being alone. There are thousands of other small-church leaders who are feeling much like you are. Here are a few things that you should know.
Some encouraging statistics
In a book entitled A Culture of Faith: Evangelical Congregations In Canada Sam Reimer and Michael Wilkinson, quoting a number of different studies, suggest that there are approximately 11, 000 evangelical churches in Canada.
Other studies have shown that of those 11,000 churches about 75% or 8,250 have fewer than 150 people attending Sunday morning services. Of those 8,250 about 50% or 4, 125 have fewer than 75 people attending.
Here is where the statistic become interesting. If the 4, 125 churches that average less than 75 in attendance on Sunday mornings were to average 45 people that would be 185,625 people attending those churches every week. If the 4,125 churches with attendance between 75 and 150 were to average 95 people that would be another 391,875 people. That would mean that on any given Sunday in Canada more than a half million people would be attending a small church to worship and serve God.
It is easy to feel like yours is the only church your size but the reality is that you are part of a very large group of churches that fit into that category known as small churches. If you think about the church as a whole, your church is one of 8,000 other small churches. If you think about your part as an individual in your church, you are one of more than a half million other individuals serving in a small-church context.
Whichever way you look at it, you are far from being alone.
Real people in real churches
Statistics can be fun and even encouraging when they help us realize that we are part of something much larger than just our own church but there is a dangerous side to statistics. It is easy to forget that statistics represent more than just numbers that can be manipulated to suite the desires of the person quoting them. Each one of those 8,000 small churches that I just mentioned represents a real church made up of real people.
Over the past month I have spent time in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In each of those provinces I have met with leaders in small churches. Each one of those leaders is doing her best to serve the people whom God has entrusted into her care.
If you were to ask me why Small Church Connections exists, I would tell you that it is to serve small churches across Canada. That is the short, one-sentence statement that defines our mission. We exist for the purpose of serving small churches.
In stating that though there is something that I don’t ever want to forget. While our goal is to serve small churches, those small churches that we serve are made up of real people who love and serve Jesus.
If you attend a small church, you are part of something much larger than the group of Christians that attend your church. You are one of hundreds of thousands of individuals who make up small churches in Canada and each one of you individually is an important part of the whole.
It isn’t the number of people in the pews that adds value. It is the presence of Jesus.
I have shared this quote before but you can never read it too often. It is one of my two or three all time favorite quotes that I have ever come across. It is a statement made by E. Stanley Jones, a missionary to India in the 1900s.
“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 center 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.”
If you were the only small church in Canada, you would still have tremendous value because of your relationship to Jesus Christ. As Jones states, it is that relationship with Jesus that gives value to the church. It isn’t the earthen vessel that holds the precious pearl that adds value. It is the pearl itself that is held within the vessel. It isn’t the church that gives value to Jesus. It is the Lord of the church that gives value to the vessel.
It is so easy to forget this but whenever we do we have a distorted understanding of the church. As you drive by the large church down the road or in another town, slow down long enough to tell yourself that the only thing that gives any value to that large church is the fact that it is loved and cared for by the same Lord Jesus that loves and cares for your church.
The next time that you drive into the parking lot of your church, pause long enough to remind yourself that your church is loved and cared for by its Head. When Jesus died, he died for the people in your small church just as surely as he did for the people in the large church down the road.
In fact he died for every person in every single one of those 8,000 small evangelical churches across Canada which means that you are part of a network of churches that may not be large in numbers but are important because they are in relationship with the Lord.
A final note of encouragement
Small churches are an important part of the church scene in Canada. Rather than feeling alone, you need to feel part of something that is much bigger than just your role in a small church in your part of the country. More than a half million other people attend small churches like yours.
Your church along with the other 8,250 small churches across the country contribute significantly to the church scene in this country. You produce leaders. You send out missionaries. You impact people. You touch lives.
The next time that you feel somewhat discouraged, remind yourself that your church is one of 8,000 other small churches that have value because they are connected to Jesus Christ.