While the senior pastor was out of town he received a message that one of the church members had fallen ill. She was hours away from death. The pastor immediately contacted his newly-appointed associate pastor with the news.
The woman died later that day.
When the senior pastor returned to town, he learned his associate never attempted to contact the dying woman or her grieving family.
It turns out that the younger pastor never made any hospital calls during his tenure at this church. That didn’t fit his concept of what “big-church” pastors do. Never mind that this is not a big church.
He also bristled at the senior pastor’s suggestion to learn members’ names. “That’s just a small-church mentality,” he said. He believed that a small or medium-sized church will grow only if it adopts the ways of big churches.
His mindset is not unusual in the American church scene. Many churches and their leaders are smitten with the ways of the large church. They eagerly attend megachurch conferences, devour the books of celebrity pastors, and seek to emulate the methods of any church with more than 1,000 parking spaces.
In fact, big church parking lots have attracted a lot of big-thinking admirers. Not long ago I visited a two-year-old church plant conducting services in a middle school. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, I knew this was a big-thinking church. There were four guys in fluorescent vests directing traffic in the tiny lot. The final car count: 12. Kinda cute, I guess.
While it’s common for people in any endeavor to look up to the big and famous, I wonder how healthy and effective “big-church thinking” is for the 99 percent of churches that are not big. Has numerical bigness become the tacit mission?
NO BIG DEAL
If “big-church thinking” isn’t always a healthy approach, what’s a better way for the average church? Some suggestions:
1. Thank God for the gathering in your midst, regardless of numerical size.
2. Whatever your size, think like a small church–personalized. Faith, and the nurturing of faith, are relational endeavors. Relationships aren’t mass-produced.
3. To be fresh and effective where you are, look beyond the established behemoths for inspiration. Most breakthroughs don’t come as a result of copying the big status quo. Starbucks, for example, did not break through by attempting to emulate Folgers or other big coffee brands.
Rather than thinking big, perhaps it’s time for some humble Jesus-style thinking. The Son of God stooped to tend to sick and dying individuals. And he bothered to call people by name. (The record is unclear if he utilized vest-clad camel lot attendants.)
Isn’t it the big churches that are so pushing the small groups because they understand that big is impersonal and the only way to keep people coming in a big church is to get people individually involved in such things as small groups?
Small churches don’t need the small groups so much and there may not be enough interest or people with the time to be involved in them.
Oddly small churches covet what big churches do and big churches covet the small church community relationships where everyone knows everyone.
If it’s the coveting of what others have or can do is the driver for what exists then what is the negative outcome of this? I would say in both cases, burn-out. The small churches trying to look like big churches have to few people doing too many things. The big churches with the extra side small groups not only has people going to church on Sunday with all those bells and whistles but then doing the groups other days of the week. That is just too much responsibility for people and too many extra activities for people to be squeezing into life.
A problem with large churches is that they require large organizational structures to administrate. In this respect they are no different than any other formalized group of people. The larger the church the more complex the structure. And the structures in turn inculcate staff and church attenders with routines and and processes that over time tend to develop a life of their own. The people start to serve the structures instead of the other way around. Which for some people is actually easier than real human interaction. When Dilbert cartoons start becoming intelligible in the context of a church it can’t be a good thing.
In theory small groups ought to address this. My practical experience as a long-time former member of a medium-sized church is that the groups themselves became part of the program. We are in small groups because our church has small groups. Not because they actually encourage real relationships or spiritual formation.
Excellent insight by Steve M, imho. In my city the senior pastor of a mega-church (of a few thousand) reported proudly in a local newspaper that it took about 160+ people to make a morning service ‘happen.’ Sooner or later those 160+ become part of the program, and programs don’t breathe life – only Jesus (as functional head of the body) does.
The second paragraph was true of a ‘cell church’ I pastored for some years, to some extent at least. When I left, the cell groups became just another church program/ministry which turned in on itself.
I’m reminded of Rick Warren’s quote in the film, ‘When God Left the Building’ (http://whengodleftthebuilding.com), where he said, “Nobody likes a big church…except pastors.”
That may explain why some look up to the big church and want to emulate the practices and thinking. For those people who do so, perhaps large attendance is emblematic of an [inappropriate] affirmation of God “blessing” them. Of course, only God can judge the heart.
I recall the example Jesus gave of leaving the flock of 99 sheep to look for the 1 lost sheep, though I anticipate some protesting…”that’s not church!” They may be right, but that’s where Jesus was. Wherever Jesus is, that’s where I want to be as well, regardless of if it’s called “church” or not.
I was part of a small church for most of my life. Of the three congregations in our area, 1 closed (the one I was attending most often) while I was serving a 4-year stint in the army. The 2nd congregation, that was the mother church of the area, dwindled in attendance to near nothingness (unsure as to why). The 3rd congregation I began attending when I moved back to my hometown.
Over the events of about 10 years, they assumed that they were on an upward spiral because of the slight attendance increase. However, this attendance boost was only because of the decline of the other two congregations. While I didn’t agree with 1/2 of the sermons for various reasons, I still enjoyed the fellowship of that congregation.
Then it happened…they began plotting to build a family-life center (a gym basically). This divided the congregation somewhat, mainly because the finances were just enough to maintain at the time. The proposition was forced and it caused much rumbling within the congregation. The pastor began teaching from a book on Wednesday, written by a successful (as far as numbers go) mega church pastor. The very title was guilt-laden delineating those that wouldn’t fully dedicate to the goals of the leadership as only pretend Christians. The introduction of this book on that first Wed night was the last consistent service my wife and I attended.
I’m beginning to see that there can be problems and disagreements within a congregation. There can even be bad theology, but when we try to force growth by worldly means, we inevitably shoot ourselves in the foot and can cause people to break under the unneeded strains.
Thank you for pointing out that it is not about the numbers. I often grieve when at denominational gatherings the first question that is often asked amongst pastors is “How many people attend your church?” It is as though the success of the ministry was measured by the number of attendees. I often wonder what would happen if instead of numbers, pastors asked each other what really matters…what about Jesus?
The one that drives me to distraction is when people say, speaking about the size of their church, “We worship 500 (or whatever) people every Sunday.” Wait…what? Just whom are you worshiping? I get what they’re trying to say, but I sort of feel like the sloppy language usage gives away what they actually mean.
I love it! As a pastor of two small churches, the ministry of presence is essential. This is true, I believe for any church. It’s all about relationships. I have been a part of large churches, but they emphasized relationships. I appreciate your take on this.
Love it! What’s with the secular values – where is Jesus in all this?
Love it! So, did the Apostle Paul have a “small church mentality?” I noticed that he identifies almost 35 people by name at the end of his letter to the Romans. (And he hadn’t even been there yet!)
Yes, I think so. Paul ministered to Lydia, in Phillippi, where there were so few Jewish folks that they didn’t have a synagogue. All they had was a prayer group on the beach. I believe that Paul didn’t care. He wanted to minister to more, of course (who doesn’t, especially an evangelist?), but one was enough. Or two.
“Small churches” were the only kind there were in the NT. Every church mentioned in Scripture met in a home and functioned like a small spiritual family. No church buildings for at least 200 years.
Each year I become more and more convinced that when Jesus said, “Where two or three gather in my name, there I am with you.” he was giving us THE model for the church, not A model.
I think part of the hidden problem is MONEY. A minister often commits as much time to his education as an M. D. (yes, he really does!), and it rankles when the congregation cannot support him, even at a basic level. So to change all this, we need to start thinking about the education ministers are expected to have, and educate them for parallel careers–one ministerial, one secular. This is heresy, of course, but… I remember better than I should how hard it was to get through seminary and graduate. At the end there were small churches, and I wound up working a second job for most of my ministerial career. Since my time was divided, it was difficult to make ends meet.
I’m not complaining, because folks loved me, and the time was good, even though there were also lots of conflicts within the churches (ANOTHER thing about small churches). I often spent almost full-time on the church, leaving me with a very significant time commitment to earn my “real money.” Good thing I have more than one talent.
So when we talk about “big churches,” and “how pastors like them,” I think a lot of it has to do with $$$$$.
So the first thing is how to deal with the economics. Frankly, I like the “Paul” method better and better…have a trade or a profession, minister as you’re able. That alone creates smaller churches, because if you are doing ministry on the side, you’re unable to exercise that amazing ambition that some of us have.
I also believe that a truly healthy dose of secular work, in a secular environment, teaches us in a few days more than we could ever want to know about what the world at large is actually like. It’s also a great opportunity to exercise your “real ministry”–evangelism. After all, isn’t that what we’re always telling “other people” to do?? so why shouldn’t we?
Now I realize (looking at the preceding comments) that this is unlike what others are saying, but I do believe what I’m saying is true.
Beautiful insight, Steven. Beautiful.
If Jesus told us to go make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them all the commands we’ve been taught, then rinse and repeat, how can us pastors replicate ourselves realistically? Are we generating a career for those who want to work in ministry or are we equipping men and women to be prepared for a call into ministry regardless of where or what that looks like? How many in our congregations are realistically looking at us on stage and saying to themselves, “now, that’s me. I can do that!”
We are mandated to “make disciples.” Nowhere did God instruct us to create an income stream built on the backs of “making disciples.” How can we replicate that? If you can’t afford to pay for these discipling materials and instructors from XYZ seminary, then we cannot equip you for duplicatable ministry. How did we get from the Bible to do that?
Once we’ve laid out that kind of cash, usually in loans, now we EXPECT a position that will compensate us for our investment. We’ve invested in a certificate that says we can speak in behalf of God. That would be why our workers are few when the harvest is so ready. We are expecting to get paid to work while in the service of our King. Kind of backwards, don’t you think?
The “Paul method” – ministering as you’re able and on the side? Actually Paul’s method was doing secular work (tentmaking) when he had to, but his preferred way was preaching/evangelizing full-time – see Acts 18:1-5.
“We are expecting to get paid to work while in the service of our King. Kind of backwards, don’t you think?” Not really – see 1 Corinthians 9:7-14 and Philippians 4:15-16. Paul, the preacher, freely chose to not receive payment at times – that was his choice. But he also accepted financial support at times. And he clearly taught that the church has the responsibility to pay “those who preach the gospel.”
Big church, little church, salaries, unpaid staff, etc – these are not really the issues to be concerned about. Jesus (or any apostle) never spelled out “the” way to organize and conduct church in all places at all times. Doing these things in a supposed “right way” will not fix what’s wrong. I’m all for doing things differently, as long as it reflects or produces real heart issues. There’s no point in getting new wineskins if there’s no new wine.
I think that time commitment you speak of is a big part of the problem with the model you’re suggesting. Very few churches who can only afford to pay part-time wages want a part-time pastor. And if the pastor is working full-time in ministry for part-time wages, and must have another full-time job as well, that pastor is headed straight for burnout. It is unsustainable.
Another problem is the impossible debt pastors have when they graduate from seminary in a lot of cases. You can’t expect a pastor to come in and work for next to nothing when they’re servicing a five-figure student loan debt. That is also unsustainable.
What is the solution? I don’t know. We can train our elders to do some of the routine visiting, and train them to do more of the teaching; but still there are people who don’t think “the church” has given them any attention if the pastor him/herself doesn’t visit; and there are some classes that pastors are expected to teach (like confirmation/baptism classes–in my tradition they call that class “pastor’s class,” and that name alone tells you beyond any doubt who is supposed to be teaching it).
MikeH makes reference below to 1 Cor. 9. This passage makes it clear that it was the normative NT practice to financially support effective apostles (those “sent one” commissioned to plant churches). There is little if any Biblical basis for supporting pastors.
John, I don’t want to be rude, but what is YOUR work? What do you do for a living? Would you be willing to share what you make at your job or business?
And finally, would you do that for nothing, and get a second job to support yourself? Most won’t.
And when you have bills to pay and children who need to be fed, a “calling” really doesn’t make those responsibilities go away.
Many times, a minister’s dilemma is simply that the math doesn’t work.
And I was serious about you sharing what you do now, and your income level. Again, I really am not seeking to be rude, but it’s often happened in my experience that folks don’t understand the issues ministers face until they are translated into their own work life and environment.
Steven, I don’t think you are being rude at all. These are difficult issues, often with a lot of pain attached to them.
I worked as a pastor in traditional churches for 25 years. The pay wasn’t great but it was enough to raise two kids and pay the bills. 17 years ago, the Lord moved us out of traditional church and into the world of planting house churches. It wasn’t an easy transition even though the kids were out of the house by then. My “tentmaking job” was working as a counselor. There were certainly times when we didn’t know where the money was going to come from.
All that to say, I certainly understand that “a minister’s dilemma is simply that the math doesn’t work.” In my opinion, one major reason for this is that we have perpetuated a paradigm of church that has no biblical basis. For instance, it is estimated that the total value of church real estate in the US is roughly $500 billion. And, yet there is no instruction at all in the NT to buy or own buildings. At the same time, many of those who have a legitimate calling for ministry are barely surviving. Something is wrong with this picture!
In our ministry, we are taking some small steps to change the paradigm to create a way for men and women who have demonstrated an apostolic (church planting) gifting to begin receiving support. There’s a long way to go but we are making a beginning.
Good for you, John. I worked as a real estate broker for many years as well as my ministry. I certainly understand the “transition” thing–I started a small ministry, and spent, as you did, lots of divided time. Unfortunately, my ministry wasn’t able to support me over the time that we had small children, and they certainly were hurt by the extensive commitments inherent in a lifestyle that melded business and ministry, because of lack of time. Others have done the same thing, I know.
Bless you for being a “Strong One.”
John, the 1 Cor 9 passage specifically says “those who preach the gospel.” That does not seem to limit it to only apostles. In 1 Tim 5:17-18 Paul also speaks about paying “elders who direct the affairs of the church…especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” As far as all churches in NT times being small groups meeting in homes – I read it that there were not multiple churches in a city/area. All the believers in an area comprised one church. There wasn’t a church meeting in this house and another church meeting in that house a few blocks over. There was one church. They did have small-sized meetings in homes but they also had large meetings of all the believers in the area. The early chapters of Acts tell how the numbers increased repeatedly, so the church, at least in Jerusalem to start with, was pretty large. There was not a large church, small church dichotomy. I think it functioned more like a Kingdom movement than a small spiritual family.
What concerns me is the danger of thinking that the NT teaches/models/requires one type of church method and if we’ll just change the structure/organization of the church, then we’ll solve the problems that exist in contemporary Christianity. Structural changes can be beneficial and in some cases are necessary, but that’s not the essential change we need. The real issue for the associate pastor Thom talked about was not simply that he had a big-church mentality. He did not care about the family in need. I don’t think the size or structure of the church will address that kind of an issue.
Mike, lots to reply to in your comment…
You said, “John, the 1 Cor 9 passage specifically says “those who preach the gospel.” That does not seem to limit it to only apostles.In 1 Tim 5:17-18 Paul also speaks about paying “elders who direct the affairs of the church…especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”
JW: You are correct, Mike. Paul was validating the practice of paying some elders (those who direct the affairs of the church well). I’m guessing that their ministry was so effective that they wanted to free them up to do more. So, I’ll amend my statement that “there is little if any Biblical basis for supporting pastors.
You said, ” As far as all churches in NT times being small groups meeting in homes – I read it that there were not multiple churches in a city/area. All the believers in an area comprised one church. There wasn’t a church meeting in this house and another church meeting in that house a few blocks over. There was one church. They did have small-sized meetings in homes but they also had large meetings of all the believers in the area. The early chapters of Acts tell how the numbers increased repeatedly, so the church, at least in Jerusalem to start with, was pretty large. There was not a large church, small church dichotomy. I think it functioned more like a Kingdom movement than a small spiritual family.
JW: I can’t agree with you on this one. Regarding large meeting of all the believers in an area, the only place we have record of this was in Jerusalem. It may have occurred in other locations but there is no mention of larger meetings.
On the other hand, the fact that meetings in homes were referred to as “churches” occurs numerous times. “Greet also the church that meets in their (Priscilla and Aquila’s) house.” Rom 16:5 (probably also 16:10). “…so does the church that meets at their (Aquila and Priscilla again) house” 1 Cor. 16:19. “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.” Col. 4:15. “…to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home” Phile 1:2. I believe most church historians would agree that the early church was primarily a house church movement. Glad to give you a list of books on this.
You said: “What concerns me is the danger of thinking that the NT teaches/models/requires one type of church method and if we’ll just change the structure/organization of the church, then we’ll solve the problems that exist in contemporary Christianity. Structural changes can be beneficial and in some cases are necessary, but that’s not the essential change we need. The real issue for the associate pastor Thom talked about was not simply that he had a big-church mentality. He did not care about the family in need. I don’t think the size or structure of the church will address that kind of an issue.”
JW: While a model or structure does not guarantee health, it is clear that the practice of the NT church was primarily small, family-like gatherings. Here are some quotes from “House Church and Mission” a doctoral thesis by Roger Gehring…
“For Verner this concept of church as the ‘household of God’ (1 Tim. 3:15) incorporates two aspects: (a) the house or family is the fundamental unit of the church, and (b) the church is a social structure patterned after the household.” P. 7
“How is the prepositional phrase kat’ oikon to be understood in our context? As we have seen, this fixed idiomatic expression is found in four different places in the corpus paulinum. Some exegetes suggest translating the formula as “the church that establishes itself in a houselike manner.”” P. 155.
“…the choice of the gathering place was formational for the self-understanding and the organizational structures of the individual churches to such an extent that the ancient oikos can be seen as the formational model for ecclesiology.” P. 255.
So, it is important to change the structure. In addition, it is critical that house churches are led by mature, godly people with the character qualities listed in 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1.
John, thanks for your reply. I appreciate the time and effort you put into it. I want to be clear about what you’re saying. Are you saying the small house church is the only valid way to organize and conduct church in all places at all times? Thanks.
Mike, Good question! Here’s how I would answer. Certainly, the Lord has worked through all kinds of church structures over the years. However, if we start with this statement, “Scripture is our authoritative guide for faith and practice”, we must take a long look at the “practice” of church in the NT. I assumed for many years that the traditional model or paradigm of church (building centered, clergy centered, sermon centered, program centered, etc) was faithful to Scripture. This was the model I grew up in, was discipled in, and functioned as a pastor in.
About 20 years ago, I began to have cause to question that paradigm. I studied what God is doing around the world today, I took a new look at church history and, most important, I reread my New Testament. I came to understand that the NT reflected a clear understanding of how to practice church. That practice was deeply rooted in a connection between church and family. In addition, it most closely reflected the relationships within the Trinitarian Community. So, I now believe that this pattern or paradigm of church is closest to what the Lord has in mind.
John, thanks for sharing how you have come to your understanding on this. I want to be clear that I believe the house church model is a valid church structure. In fact, I have a sense that God may be leading me and my wife out of a traditional church (which is stagnant and dying) to start a house church kind of ministry (would appreciate your prayer on that) in our town of roughly 5000. So I am very interested in this subject and am trying to process through it all and am grateful for your input.
But I can’t get past the many indications in the NT that the church was not just a small family. It was both small and large. This is how Jesus ministered to people – sometimes with 3 or the 12 and a few more and sometimes with large crowds (to whom he “lectured,” that is, preached, for long periods of time). We’ve mentioned the believers in Jerusalem meeting in large assemblies at the temple as well as going house to house. Jerusalem is not the only place the NT records that. See Acts 19:8-10. Paul and the believers in Ephesus met in a “lecture hall” (NIV; NASB says “school”), not a house, daily – there must have been some large crowds because “ALL (emphasis mine) the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” Furthermore, large numbers of people in Ephesus became Christians ((19:26), and when Paul was leaving for Jerusalem, he “sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church” (20:17). The church – not churches. There were not multiple churches in Ephesus, even with those large numbers of believers. No house meetings are mentioned in Ephesus. They may have been there but they weren’t the only structure being used, and based on Acts maybe not the primary structure.
You refer to Roger Gehring discussing the church as the household of God. Household is only one of many images of the church along with building, temple, body, bride, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (nation – not a family unit), a kingdom, etc. These are not talking about structure or form – they’re not “formational models.” They are talking about function. Function is first. Make the structure fit and serve the function. Sometimes that might be a small house church and sometimes it might be an organization of thousands and sometimes something else or both. I think it’s necessary to have both small and large. (See Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King, chapter 8)
I just think we have to be wary of criticizing and changing the structure without deeper changes taking place.
Mike, I appreciate your persistence in sharing your perspective and asking good questions. Good discussion!
Mike said: John, thanks for sharing how you have come to your understanding on this. I want to be clear that I believe the house church model is a valid church structure. In fact, I have a sense that God may be leading me and my wife out of a traditional church (which is stagnant and dying) to start a house church kind of ministry (would appreciate your prayer on that) in our town of roughly 5000. So I am very interested in this subject and am trying to process through it all and am grateful for your input.
John: You are most welcome. Let me know if we can be of help in starting a house church ministry in your town. You might take a look at our website: LK10.com Also glad to email with you… John.LK10@gmail.com
Mike: But I can’t get past the many indications in the NT that the church was not just a small family. It was both small and large. This is how Jesus ministered to people – sometimes with 3 or the 12 and a few more and sometimes with large crowds (to whom he “lectured,” that is, preached, for long periods of time). We’ve mentioned the believers in Jerusalem meeting in large assemblies at the temple as well as going house to house. Jerusalem is not the only place the NT records that. See Acts 19:8-10. Paul and the believers in Ephesus met in a “lecture hall” (NIV; NASB says “school”), not a house, daily – there must have been some large crowds because “ALL (emphasis mine) the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” Furthermore, large numbers of people in Ephesus became Christians ((19:26), and when Paul was leaving for Jerusalem, he “sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church” (20:17). The church – not churches. There were not multiple churches in Ephesus, even with those large numbers of believers. No house meetings are mentioned in Ephesus. They may have been there but they weren’t the only structure being used, and based on Acts maybe not the primary structure.
John: Good to continue to clarify these things. In typical traditional churches today, the message is usually, “Come to church (large gathering, primary expression of church) on Sunday morning. And, if you have time, we also have some small groups.” I believe the picture for the early church was the other way around… “The primary expression of church are the house churches. And, secondarily, we do meet from time to time in larger groups.”
So, in the house church world, we have do meet in larger groups at times. We have both national and regional conferences, networks of house churches in a region will meet monthly or quarterly, and our organization is actually a virtual community of over 400 house church leaders. So, I certainly think there is value in larger gatherings. It’s not either/or but both/and.
Mike: You refer to Roger Gehring discussing the church as the household of God. Household is only one of many images of the church along with building, temple, body, bride, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (nation – not a family unit), a kingdom, etc. These are not talking about structure or form – they’re not “formational models.” They are talking about function. Function is first. Make the structure fit and serve the function. Sometimes that might be a small house church and sometimes it might be an organization of thousands and sometimes something else or both. I think it’s necessary to have both small and large. (See Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King, chapter 8)
John: “Function is first”. Yes! There are things that you can do we can do best in small groups and other things that work best in large groups. No question.
Mike: I just think we have to be wary of criticizing and changing the structure without deeper changes taking place.
John: Yes! The wineskin (structure) is important but it’s the wine (the life of the Spirit) that is far more important.
There are, Mike, some great resources for exploring house church that you might want to take a look at. Here are some that have been most helpful to me…
*Houses That Change the World. Wolfgang Simson
*The Church Comes Home. Robert Banks
*Paul’s Idea of Community. Robert Banks
*Pagan Christianity. Frank Viola
*Reimagining Church. Frank Viola
*When the Church Was a Family. Joseph Hellerman
*The Rabbit and the Elephant. Tony and Felicity Dale
*The Global House Church Movement. Rad Zdero
*House Church and Mission. Roger Gehring
John, thanks for the discussion. I think we’re pretty much on the same page. Good to know about the house church networks. And thanks for the suggested resources! I’ll check them out and will look at your website.
Thom, I gasped that the dear sister was not reached out to and her family allowed to mourn alone. Me think a spiritual dope slap to this mans head would be the ticket. No matter the size of a church, when any group takes its eyes off of Christ…whats the point to gather together?
The irony is big churches are constantly looking for ways to make a big church small.
And Jesus started with twelve, which had grown to around 120 by Pentecost; and it was when that community grew into the thousands that problems and conflicts began to crop up.
1. Hebrews 13:17 seems like a terrifying verse for the pastors/leaders of large churches. “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” Literally, it is “they keep watch over your souls”. The implication is that the leaders not only know the names of people but, much more significantly, the condition of each of their souls. The day will come when the Chief Shepherd will say to that leader, “Tell me about that one, tell me about that one, etc” The large church system makes it almost? impossible to fulfill the responsibility given to them by the Chief Shepherd. That’s terrifying!
2. When Eugene Peterson (The Message) pastored a church in Bel Air, Maryland, he said that he never wanted to have a church so big that he couldn’t call every person by name. Later, in his book, “A Pastor, A Memoir”, he wrote to a fellow pastor wanting to move to a larger church that “crowds are more dangerous than sex and drugs”. http://www.lk10.com/eugene-peterson-crowds-more-dangerous-than-sex-or-drugs/
3. A helpful book on this subject is “Small is Big!: Unleashing the big impact of intentionally small churches” by Tony and Felicity Dale. http://www.amazon.com/Small-Big-Unleashing-Intentionally-Churches-ebook/dp/B0050VMJ58/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1435267019&sr=8-5&keywords=felicity+dale&pebp=1435267037272&perid=1B7WKKGK1HKD387NJEP5
I know that on this forum I seem to have only one string on my guitar, but I’m still concerned that the focus I see amongst pastors is “pastoral care,” meaning “let’s do good things for the people who are already Christians.”
I certainly agree with this, and I devoted a huge amount of my time in the pastorate to taking care of people. I helped them financially. I helped them move (don’t buy a pickup truck, unless you like hauling furniture…); I counselled them. I sat with them while they wept, I visited them in the hospital, I warned off abusive husbands and boyfriends, and lots more than I can say.
In short, I loved the people whom God gave me to love.
However, in my heart, I always knew that the “missing thing” for me was evangelism. Try as I might, I could not bring folks to Christ the way I knew God was calling me to do. So I’d try things. Not “mechanical things,” like “a supper for all the unconverted,” but things like alternative ministries; One of the most successful was a ministry to addicts, whom we welcomed into our fellowship. The people were great in this, and they also welcomed the folks, and we saw growth that way. However, I believed then, and believe now, that there is more.
I realize that this is not a problem unique to me. The pastor of the church to which I used to go for many years gives an invitation each Sunday morning. His sermons are outstanding, to the point, and have a strong evangelistic application. Yet I remember thinking as he ended his message one day, “Nobody’s going to turn to the Lord today, and that’s wrong.”
We do need some answers for this in our increasingly secularized world. I can’t believe that it’s found in a new Josh McDowell form of apologetics–people don’t believe us. I see that most of the evangelists among us are terribly ineffective today. I have some theories about this, but right now I’m looking at my own generation (Baby Boomers), and thinking, “We have one last chance to contribute to what God is doing in our world. How do we take it?”
I realize that this is off-topic, but what difference does it make if you have the most caring ministry in the world, if that world is essentially lost?
I almost think we’ve reversed the “Lost Sheep” paradigm that Jesus discussed in Luke 15: now there are 99 lost sheep, and one we have saved. What about the 99?
I’m not complaining. I’m seeking answers. I know what I plan, and who knows if it will work, but nobody seems to be doing it, so we shall see, and I’ll share if I see some success. Suggestions? It is really our job. “Preach the Gospel in the whole creation…”
Amen, pastor, amen. We need to share The Lord’s love wherever we go, and that’s how we’ll reach the 1 (and the 99), as He prepares their hearts and crosses our paths. I love this passage:
“And they spoke unto him, saying, If you are kind to these people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they’ll be your servants forever.” (2 Chron. 10:7)
King David’s grandson, Rehoboam, was about to inherit the kingdom from his father, Solomon. Solomon’s friends gave Rehoboam the preceding advice — be kind, please them, speak good words, and they’ll love you back. Basically, what King Jesus wants us to do!
Did he take their wise counsel? Obviously not. He dissed them, and they dissed him — hit the highway, so to speak. He was left with only Judah, while The Lord gave Israel to an apostate.
But we can learn “God’s way” today — and not “the highway.”
Evangelistic programs rarely work nowadays. I love evangelizing, and continue doing it, but I tend to do it one on one mostly now.
Brother Schultz has great insight. Keep doing Kingdom Work and I believe we’ll soon hear “Well done!”
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