I’m the pastor of a medium-sized church in a small town. We don’t have a coffee shop in our church. There’s not even one in our town. We do have a place where people can buy, sell or trade cattle and I’m sure that there’s plenty of coffee there.
Even the people in my small town, when they visit our church, are shocked at how geographically isolated we are.
“Man, y’all starting some kind of Branch Davidian compound out here? I like to never found this place.”
By most standards, our church isn’t very influential. CNN never calls asking me to come on the air and elaborate about my last sermon. We aren’t working on a way to use satellites and drones to dig wells in underdeveloped countries.
In order to be really influential, some say, you have to be in a city. That’s where the culture makers and shapers live. And if you can reach them, you can impact the culture with the gospel. Therefore, move to the city. Get out of the country as soon as you can. Head for the skyscrapers!
I understand the sentiment. I’m not concerned with starting an urban versus rural ministry civil war. The gospel is needed in both contexts and Jesus sovereignly equips and places people to represent him where he sees fit.
Jesus has seen fit to place me in a medium-sized church in a small community and I couldn’t be happier. And while our church may never start an international movement, we do have an impact. A small impact. But just because an impact is small doesn’t mean that it is insignificant.
Last Sunday, I got a gift from some kids in our church. It’s a piece of art. In the middle of the white canvas a teenager painted a cross. Inside of the cross she wrote a Bible verse.
Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
Around the perimeter of the canvas there are 13 tiny handprints. They belong to children in our church. Each kid’s name is written on his handprint.
Monday morning I was hanging this picture in my office when a man walked in. He’s old enough to be the grandfather of the kids whose names are written on that canvas. He’s not the type to preach a sermon, teach a class or start a movement. He’s a farmer. And he loves Jesus and the Church Jesus died for.
When those 13 kids in our church become men and women, that’s where I want them to be. For now, I’m not concerned with whether or not they will start a movement, preach or teach. I just want them to love Jesus and the Church Jesus died for.
I think we’ve got it all wrong on impact and influence. We think that it always has to be big. Usually, it isn’t. In fact, to the human eye at least, it has a way of looking really small. Like when a group of older farmers and retirees pour their lives into 13 kids with tiny hands.
Those hands won’t be smooth and tiny forever. As time passes by they will collect a few scars and grow bigger. And when the physical growing is complete, may the spiritual growth continue.
All because of the impact of a medium-sized church.
And a very big God.