My (Jeff) first pastoral ministry position was in a small town called Factoryville. No, I didn’t misspell it – it was Factoryville. Don’t worry, the name grows on you. After a while it sounds as attractive as Hollywood. Well, okay, not really, but anyway…
I took a church that had just lost a building to a fire, and a pastor to a larger full-time position. We met in a Borough Hall. (that’s pig Latin for “town hall” – no offense to pigs) My wife and I attended this church before I became the pastor and our ministry was to teach Children’s Church in the lower level. Do you feel me when I say “lower level”? Read dungeon. Really. Actually dungeon is generous. You could only get newlyweds addicted to ministry to serve in a space like that!
Our days in the Borough Hall were numbered so we bought the old town library, which was a jail before that, I think back in the 1800’s or at least during Bonnie and Clyde. I think they were actually held there for a while in the 30’s. But we bought the building, and I got my friend, whose name I don’t remember now, to remodel it for us. What a hoot! What was I thinking?
When we had finished the remodel, the first floor was the “auditorium” and when we set up all the chairs we had, and took up every space we could in the 25’x31’ room, we sat 50 people! I had my college president come and preach, we had 50 people that morning, and he wondered what we were going to do to make more room. Can I tell you? Back then, in 1988, we never imagined scheduling a second service.
In that room, 50 people was packing out the house! It was an enormous crowd! Downstairs in the, get it, the, Sunday School room, a dozen people was a world record… for our Factoryville church.
One Sunday night for our evening service I had two people show up, and one was a visitor. I welcomed them, and we had church. I even preached the message I had prepared. I never saw that visitor again, because in that context, three was definitely not a crowd! But he did stay until the end of the message. Shock makes people do strange things.
For many churches, 100 people would be considered a very, very small group of people. For other churches, 100 would be a banner day. For still other churches 1,000 people would be a terrible Sunday. In every one of those churches, each person sits with one other person, or a few other people in a group, and they worship, whether there’s 50 or 5,000. Small is relative, large is relative. But JESUS is our common Lord, Savior, and Friend!
No matter the size of your church, or the terrible or beautiful name of your town, your pastoral leadership and love for your people is paramount. Love the 5 or love the 5,000. Apples and oranges yes, but they are both fruit, and fruit is what Jesus told us to look for. He told us to make disciples of all ethnic groups, baptize them, and teach them to obey him. Whether we do that in a big group or small matters not a bit.
This week on the 200churches Podcast Jonny and I welcome back Karl Vaters. Karl is the pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, CA, the founder of NewSmallChurch.com, and the author of The Grasshopper Myth - Big Churches, Small Churches, and the Small Thinking that Divides Us.
Karl is a pitbull in defense of small churches and small church pastors. He is rabidly committed to the local church, as in the people and the pastor. Karl spent most of September away from his California church, ministering in Europe. Some people got a hold of his book, The Grasshopper Myth, and he went over and taught them that they can love their small churches – and he is going to tell us all about it!
Karl knows that small is quite relative and inconsequential when it comes to Kingdom ministry. Jonny and I are looking forward to talking with him, and sharing that conversation with YOU! The 200churches Podcast is released on iTunes and Stitcher, and on our 200churches.com site every Wednesday at 12:01AM.
Here is Karl's first conversation with us on the 200churches Podcast.
Below: Karl preaching in Croatia. Begins at 36:00.
Thankfully, there will be no need for a translator on episode 41 of the 200churches Podcast. Just us English speaking pastor types! Looking forward to Wednesday...
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