Bob and Jeannie attended a 200church. This church, while meeting the 200church definition (a church of about 200, give or take a hundred or two) actually had an average attendance of 125. Bob received a call from a family member that his brother was dead. It was death by suicide, with a shotgun, and it was not pretty. The pastor visited with Bob and Jeannie, praying with them and answering some difficult questions that all started with “But how could God…?”
The church family rallied around the couple, providing food, more food, and yet more food for the relatives visiting and staying in their home during this tragedy. They helped with details and tasks related to the funeral plans, and assisted the church leadership in taking care of the couple.
A youth leader showed up at Bob and Jeannie’s home as they were prepared to walk out the door to the funeral service. He hugged Bob, and handed him a little travel packet of tissues, and two boxes of Tic-tac’s. I hope these help just a little today. They did. Bob would be okay.
Pete and Joyce lived a few houses up from their pastor. Their church was small, most Sundays were in the 30’s, but some Sunday services had attendance even in the 20’s. This pastor was bi-vocational, and he left for work every morning at 3:30am. The call came at 11:25pm.
"Pastor, could you come right away, my mother is not breathing!" The pastor was greeted at the door by a stunned Pete, with Joyce lying dead on the living room floor, eyes still open. “Pastor, this wasn’t supposed to happen… We were high school sweet hearts, she’s always been my girl… we were going to retire and enjoy ourselves… what is happening??!”
The pastor drove Pete to the hospital just behind the ambulance, with the paramedics doing CPR all the way, visible through the back window. Pete could not stop nervously talking. They met Pete’s daughter and son-in-law at the hospital. The pastor was standing next to Pete and his daughter when the doctor came out and said “I’m sorry, we did everything we could do…”
Pete’s daughter’s arms began to shake, throwing Coke and ice all over herself and the floor around her. Pete took a seat repeating, “this wasn’t supposed to happen, this wasn’t supposed to happen…”
While the pastor drove him back home that night, he wasn’t sure that Pete wouldn’t grab the wheel from him and drive them both into oncoming traffic, in an attempt to escape the grief that engulfed him. Almost three years later that same pastor stood as the best man in Pete’s wedding to his second wife. Pete would be okay.
Joe attended a small church. It was just big enough to afford a youth pastor, at a very frugal salary! Their youth group was small, but getting bigger. The kids enjoyed the new “youth guy” who paid a lot of attention to them. They figured he actually loved them if he would come to this church for that much money.
They planned an overnight camp out with the guys. Only two seventh graders could come, Joe and his friend Max. They fished, hiked, swam, and then cooked out. In the small trailer provided by the senior pastor, Max fell quickly asleep, leaving Joe in conversation with his youth pastor.
With the opportunity to speak freely, with no other students around to judge, and no time limit, Joe opened up about his dysfunctional family and alcoholic father. He spoke of his struggle to like himself and wondered if his parents might divorce soon. He talked about God and his questions about the Bible. He asked his youth pastor what he thought of him, and how he could be a better follower of Jesus.
That night, Joe and his youth pastor developed a bond that would last for decades, and carry him through many tough times. Joe would be okay. Max never joined the youth group, but that night’s conversation changed Joe’s life, and indeed made a profound impact on the youth pastor as well.
Three stories among millions!
God is working through small churches every day to change peoples’ lives – sometimes in good situations, often in crises. Jeff and Jonny both grew up in small churches, with under a hundred people. People who had very little Christian training or discipleship profoundly influenced them.
Think about your life and commitment to the Gospel and your church family. NEVER, NEVER underestimate how God can and is using you and your church to do KINGDOM work, real ministry in your community. Please, pastor, no matter what size your church is, remember, small churches and their pastors change peoples’ lives, spread the Gospel, and matter huge in the Kingdom of God!
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