Don't Marginalize Small Churches

The young, exciting, big churches get a lot of good press and are often highlighted for their success. Perhaps rightly so. They have a lot of energy and resources to have an impact in their communities. But what about the small churches like mine -- God's little churches?  Many smaller churches are not growing. Some are shrinking. No new members are coming in, and the existing members are slowing down and passing on into heaven. What about churches like mine that don't see 100 or 50 or 25 baptisms a year? Sometimes we may not see even one baptism a year. What about the church that can't boast about numbers? What about the church that doesn't have a "praise team" so they sing hymns out of a hymnal, sometimes being moved to tears? What about the church that has to put off repairs and scrape the budget for funds to plow the parking lot for those 20 faithful people to get safely in the door on a wintry Sunday? What about the church like mine where people serve faithfully in volunteer positions for years or perhaps decades with no break, just because they love the Lord and they love their little church? Very often, the members of these small churches have a deep, abiding faith and are fiercely loyal to the church family and the mission of the church. 

Often times a church like mine is called a "dying church," but it's NOT a dying church. In most small churches in our convention, good doctrine is being taught, and the Gospel, the living Word, is being proclaimed. Members are facing cancer with courage and trusting in the promises of their Lord. I've sat with many who faced death confidently and fearlessly, having learned the doctrines of grace and heaven in this small church. I’ve sat with families as they sing the old hymns by heart, surrounding the bed of a dying loved one. In a small church, when someone is absent, people notice. People care. Sometimes one-third of our church goes out to eat together after Sunday service. We laugh together and love each other’s company. We care about each other. Our weekly prayer meeting is attended by 25% or more of our church membership. We pray faithfully for our church, our communities, our denominational office staff and our missionaries -- and we’ve seen God work in amazing ways. There is nothing “dead” or “dying” about that. 

The faithful members of our church have chosen to give 20% of our revenue to the Cooperative Program and have consistently placed the church in the top 20 churches in Cooperative Program giving, and even higher in per capita giving, over the last few years. Oftentimes, the small church ministers to the aged, those who have been faithfully serving Christ for decades in their church and now are too old and tired to go out at night or walk neighborhoods or rake people's leaves or paint porches. Many small churches consist of members who can’t go on mission trips anymore, but they give sacrificially and confidently, and they pray fervently for those who are able to go on the trips, because they they believe in the cause. They know Christ and they desire others to know Him too. Being a small church does not mean it's a dying church if the life of Christ is evident and visible in and through the members.

So please don't forget or marginalize the small churches. I suspect there are far more of us than there are big churches. It was on the shoulders of the older members in churches like mine that many of the big churches were built. It is often smaller churches who have sent out the missionaries and laborers to start those churches that are now prospering. So don't write off the small church. Don't refer to them as "dying." The old saints here have served their Lord well, and Christ still lives abundantly in their hearts. They don't deserve to be marginalized.

Yes, give the young, dynamic, growing church leaders awards and accolades, but please don’t dismiss the bi-vocational pastor who shovels the church sidewalk by himself on a Sunday morning and doesn't complain; who sits at his desk in a 58 degree office to save the church money, working late into the night to be ready for Sunday’s sermon; who negotiates contracts by himself; who gets up on a ladder to change a light bulb on a Saturday night; who knows every one of his flock and what they’re going through, and names them by name in his prayers; who shepherds a flock of 15 or 20 faithfully while working a full-time job and caring for his family. 

Small churches like mine may not be glamorous.  We may not attract the big crowds.  But we know, love and serve the Lord our God, and we need nothing else. 

This article was written by the pastor of a small BCNE church who prefers to remain anonymous.