Some treat small churches and their pastors as if they have the plague—as if the Lord has put a divine frown on his face. But rest assured that small churches and pastors of small fellowships are within the divine purposes of God.
Early in my ministry for the Lord, I felt miserable, as if I didn’t measure up. No pastor wants to be found wanting in their calling, vocation, or assignment. When we start out, our spirits are high, eagerness fills our hearts, we anticipate the movement of God, and we constantly look for his promises. Then the thought of the “real world” hits you smack in the face. Those occupying the positions above us desire for our congregations to be marked by steady increase—but what if it doesn’t happen like that? I cannot think of a single pastor who would say, “I don’t want this fellowship to grow or expand,” or, “I don’t really want to be viable in my community.”
Will we measure up to all the expectations placed on us? I was very excited about my first pastorate in Corpus Christi, Texas, and my faith was looking for great things. Sometimes, however, these great things came in small ways. We should always look for great miracles to take place in our small assignments, regardless of the numbers. We must expect great joy to overtake us, and our works in the community should flourish (joy travels fast, when God is in it). In my early ministry, we started a clothes locker to help people who needed clothes or shoes. Word spread fast, and before long, people came. Our church was located in the inner city. Some of the souls who came looking for clothes declined to stay for services. Others came for both, and we preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who would listen. We thought it was great to have people come and browse through the clothes and shoes to find needed items. The clothes locker was one of the great things that God was doing in that ministry.
Consider Philip from the story told in Acts 8. It is truly wonderful how the Lord used Philip to preach Christ. Notice how God directed Philip’s assignment after he left Samaria. God gave specific directions to an out-of-the-way place, where one soul—just one!—needed understanding:
“And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts 8:26–30, KJV).
O, man or woman of God, where you stand, behind your little pulpit, is not a desert place, not a place of desolation. As you stand in front of your small congregation, God has you there to bring understanding to those who have questions concerning Christ. We must rise to the task of the little things so that the great things might be made manifest! What may have been going through Philip’s mind? We don’t know, but we do know that obedience was a priority.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that the Lord places a high premium on the message and not the size of the gathering?
The message of the gospel is of universal importance. If we stand before 1, or 101, or 1001, the clarity of the message must remain the same: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV).
Isn’t it wonderful to know that the Lord places a high premium on the message and not the size of the gathering? As sad as it may seem, sometimes pastors get pushed on the ropes when congregations do not “take off.” As a result, the pastor can become disheartened and feel unworthy and incapable of sparking growth as he or she leads. Paul says, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6–7; KJV).
Philip was to be a vital part of a small work, pushed by a deep love for and faith in Christ. We too must be pushed and driven by the depth of our experience in him, to allow his presence to so fill our lives as to bring honor and glory to his precious name. Hallelujah! So often we leave God out, but whether in few, or in many, they are all God’s congregations.
Whether we are big or little, we must carry God’s Word in our hearts and in our mouths. The Lord was concerned about one soul coming to Christ. Shouldn’t we also have the same concern? The size of the assignment didn’t matter to Philip, and it shouldn’t matter to us.
To the pastor of that small congregation, be encouraged. God is not through with his church or with you. By faith, you are exactly where he wants you to be. Be committed. God never called you to be successful, but he did call us to be faithful. Trust God in the small things; there are people in your congregations to whom only you can convey life and peace. You have been ordained to do it from the foundation of the world.