The size of your church doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. What matters more is what your church teaches.
When Governor Nathan Deal was reminding us all of how religiously devout he is while in the process of preparing us for his veto of the religious liberty bill, he mentioned that he is a life long member of a faith-based community. The name of the faith-based community to which the Governor belongs is the First Baptist Church of Gainesville.
Now perhaps you’re wondering how a life-long member of a Baptist church could vote against something that would protect pastors. Well, just as simply having the word Republican after one’s name doesn’t make him a champion of liberty, having the word Baptist on the sign out front doesn’t mean that the people inside the building belong to the body of Christ. Words can be misleading.
The First Baptist Church of Gainesville belongs to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a denomination that doesn’t exactly have the high view of Scripture that many Baptists are known for. Bill Coates is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gainesville. In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, Coates encouraged church goers to err on the side of love and grace and figure out a way to accept the new normal.
The First Baptist Church of Gainesville is not a particularly large church by megachurch standards. And many may assume that it is less influential than it actually is. Your church may not use curriculum from the First Baptist Church of Gainesville. This church may not have had any of their worship leaders invited to the Grammy’s. But when news broke yesterday of Nathan Deal’s decision to veto the religious freedom bill, the impact of the First Baptist Church of Gainesville was felt statewide. Perhaps even nation wide. As Al Mohler said, “If it can happen in Georgia it can happen anywhere.”
What your church believes matters much, much more than how many people go to your church. And while your church may not be in a large, influential city, it is still influential. That can be good news or bad news. If you are faithful to the Bible this means that you can, in varying degrees, expect to raise up disciples who value the word of God so much that they are willing to joyfully obey it no matter the cost.
But if you abandon the difficult texts or the controversial topics found in the Bible in favor of short sermons on how to better connect with strangers or how Jesus’ resurrection is really about how all of us can rise again from our disappointments if we just try a little harder or believe a little more you will most assuredly produce disciples also. Disciples of the culture’s whims. Disciples of convenience. Just not disciples of Christ.
This helps us to understand what Governor Deal meant when he said that his decision was based on the fact that, “the world is changing around us.” And we wouldn’t want to not change with the world now would we?
There will come a time when the people of our congregations will be pressed. It might be cancer. It might be persecution. It might be a difficult political decision. And what those people have been taught in their church will have a lot to say about what comes out of them during their difficult times.
No matter the size, your church is much more influential than you think it is.
On Easter Sunday I watched a bunch of kids in our church sing a song. Two of the kids on that stage belonged to me. But I am responsible for all of the kids on that stage. I have an obligation to teach them the Bible and encourage their parents in doing the same. Perhaps one of those kids will grow up to be a governor. Maybe not. Maybe she’ll grow up to be a mom or maybe he’ll grow up to teach at a school. Either way, they’ll be pressed.
And when they are, I hope that Christ-centered theology is what comes out rather than whatever it is that they have to say in that moment to keep up with the world.
Theology matters. The church must not abandon the Bible. Without it, we cease to become a church and instead become a factory that produces deceived religious folks who cave to the pressure of the world rather than standing on truth.
Maybe your church is small or far removed from an influential metropolitan area. That’s okay. If you are training up men and women who love Jesus and obey his word, you are far more influential than you may think. A church that settles for teaching members how to change with the world will never change the world. A church that strives for biblical faithfulness will in some way change the world while at the same time pleasing it’s Master. Faithfulness and obedience, not attendance records and influential members, are the instruments that the Master likes to use in accomplishing his will.
For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. Ezra 7:10 (ESV)