I pastor what many would consider a small church. I’ve been there going on seven years in August. The length of time I’ve been there, we’ve gained some people and lost others. I can’t say that my first pastorate has turned the world upside down as some others appear to, but I can say, without question, there are people I’ve been able to lead to the Lord, comfort in their time of loss, encourage in their daily problems, and enrich their walk with Christ. That isn’t a pat on my back, but a showing of thanks to Christ for the opportunities given. Still, I preface this all with the reality that I lead a church, small in numbers. We’ve had very few times in Sunday morning services that we’ve ever had over 50 individuals attend while I’ve been there. If you knew where we are located coupled with the realities of national church trends, you’d say, “Of course.” Because of this, I have, personally, spent years wrestling with one thing above all else in my ministry: limiting the God I serve as pastor.
I remember when not even a year and a half ago, our church had only a handful of adults attending on Wednesday nights, and some weeks, we didn’t have but myself and one or two others. We focused on adult bible study, but the children’s program was not the primary focus at all. If a child happened to come to service either by being brought or just walking to church or riding their bike, they sat with the adults many times, listening (maybe) to lessons meant for individuals far older than them. I can say for many small churches I’ve seen, who are struggling either with real financial or logistical circumstances or maybe wrestling with imagined ones, this is often the case. I believe we have the best intentions in our minds for our churches: we want growth to happen. We really do. However, just like harvesting real crops, we first must take the time and effort to plant and prepare. I believe our church could have continued in doing just what it was doing from then on forward, but I believe we would have also continued other things as well: cutting budgets every year, and doubting that things would ever turn around in regards to attendance and ministry. Complacency could have robbed us from experiencing blessings, but the greatest thing about this piece are two words: COULD HAVE.
With the introduction of new people into our fellowship and other circumstances, I began to really think about the direction of the church. You say, “Pastor, you should be waking up thinking about the direction of your church everyday.” Believe me, I know this to be true, but being what is labeled ‘bi-vocational’, as well as juggling the complexities of life, I didn’t have focus as I should have. I was maintaining, not challenging myself or my flock. So, after thinking and praying and then doing both some more, we moved on pursuing children for our Wednesday night services. Since then, we have children (and adults) attending services in numbers that greatly outnumber those attending Sunday mornings. We meet as a group to start, I teach the children, whose ages range from three through high school, we sing and pray, and I then dismiss them to their classes. At this time, the adults also have class time, while some of them prepare a meal every week. We feed everyone attending, and I know that many coming are benefiting spiritually, physically, and socially through what’s happening now. It’s been an amazing transformation that is also transforming those involved for the better. I believe all of us actively look forward to being a part of the community being built in the church.
All of this could have been stopped by dwelling on questions, such as these: “We don’t have the people to do something like that…How much is it going to cost?..What about the logistics of keeping up with kids?..We’re too old, tired, *insert excuse of choice*.” Instead of this, we moved. We were obedient to the leading of God, and He is undoubtedly blessing us for it. Our church is looking forward, and God is blessing us in all ways. Our church giving has never been higher. Generosity pours in from all directions. We are actively moving towards purchasing another church van for, you guessed it: GROWTH! Instead of saying “NO” or “MAYBE”, we’ve told God “YES”; as a result, we are partakers of the increase.
The best part of all of this is that IT’S ALL TRUE! I believe what’s true for us can be true for you too. Whatever situations you face, look for His way, and don’t hesitate. You RUN the direction He leads. When we hesitate to follow His lead, we usually won’t. So, it’s simple: DON’T. Don’t hesitate to follow Jesus, and DON’T limit God!