What Makes Small Churches Great Churches:
Pastor Bill has made it to another December business meeting. As his church wades through the regular items on the agenda: approval of the minutes, treasurer’s report, written reports, oral reports, old business, and finally new business, he begins to feel his normally dry palms get sweaty. Pastor Bill knows in just a few moments he will be asked to leave so the church can discuss his salary for the next year. He will be ushered out and sent to the education space to await the decision on his compensation package. With this being his 6th year at the church of just under 100 in attendance the process of the church discussing his position without an avenue to speak for himself still rattles him. He has taken the time to examine why the church has been unable to break the 100 barrier. Oh, they passed it a few times but for all too common reasons slid back below the 100 thresh hold. One year they lost their beloved music director. Another, a couple families got upset over something he said from the pulpit. Another talk spread of him being unavailable to certain families because he didn’t make it to the hospital on one occasion. Then, he would never forget the class that refused to multiply into two because the teachers liked alternating every other month. Now the class has dwindled to fit in the room it once was outgrowing.
As Pastor Bill headed to the education wing, he knew someone would raise the question of the lack of numerical growth and tie it to the effectiveness of his ministry. He could answer what happened to each family that was not there but knew that wouldn’t satisfy the grumblers. Sometimes, Pastor Bill wondered if he should apply for any church with over 100 in attendance just so he could feel what it was like to pastor a bigger church. Other times he figured God knew best and/or maybe there was a deficiency in him that kept God from blessing the church with growth.
Preaching Preparation for the Real World Pastor:
Principle #10: Know How to Say it – Delivery
This is the eleventh in a series of articles on sermon preparation for pastors and bivocational pastors with busy schedules. To see the earlier articles, click the links below:
Principle #1: Bible Literacy
Principle #2: Know What You Believe
Principle #3: Know Your Audience—Exegeting Your People
Principle #4: Know Who You Trust—Trusted Sources
Principle #5: Know Your Text—You and the Scripture
Principle #6: Know What You Want People to Do—Application Points
Principle #7: Know the Right Story to Bring the Truth Home—Relevant Stories
Principle #8: Know How to Start Well with Good Introductions
Principle #9 – Conclusions
I will never forget my first coaching I received in the area of delivery. My recently acquainted friend from college invited me to visit his grandparents in rural Missouri. He said their preacher planned to have him preach in the Sunday evening service and that he would probably let me preach too. As we prepared for our back to back sermons, my friend offered one piece of advice. “Tom, whatever you do make sure to yell.” My friend, who had never heard me preach, radically changed my delivery forever. No, I don’t just yell all the time (I grew out of that faze), but before my friend I never gave a moment of thought to how my message sounded to others.
Now, a close second in importance to being biblical in the content of the message is how you share the message. Listen to what Stephen Rummage says about delivery. He states, “The truth is, no matter how careful you were in your exegesis and interpretation and no matter how skillfully you put together your message, your sermon will be evaluated on the basis of how you deliver it.” Communication researcher Judee Burgoon developed a theory called “nonverbal expectancy theory.” In essence, it states that people have presuppositions on how people should communicate. If your delivery falls below their expectations, you lose credibility because you have violated their expectations. That’s what my friend in college was trying to tell me. The people in rural Missouri will not listen if you do not yell. So, I yelled.
The Bible is clear that the church is a local assembly on earth and not an invisible glob of people that say they are believers but never assemble here on earth. The latter is the “Kingdom of God” we all enter into by spiritual birth (John 3:3). It is not synonymous with what God’s Word calls the church here on earth.
Consider what Paul writes to the church at Corinth, the church at Ephesus, the church at Philippi. The Antioch church sent Paul and Barnabas out on their missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3). It says he and Barnabas confirmed souls and ordained elders in every church (Acts 14:23). Christians were added to the church at Pentecost (Acts 2:41). When you add to a family that is visible you know that by their participation in that family. The food bill goes up. The sleeping quarters have to be rearranged and people schedules and needs increase.
The dangerous trend of “I don’t need organized Christianity or the local church” has no biblical foundation. It was to visible, assembled people who Christ gave the commission, who went out and won others forming other groups of visible assembled people.
Many still insist however that I’m in “the invisible church” if I’m saved and it really doesn’t matter what a local group does who calls itself a church. Just being in the “invisible body of Christ” is good enough for me! Oh Really? The last time I looked my body was visible.
Dr. Bailey has been the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, since 1989. He formerly served as Professor of Old Testament at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary from 1978 to 1995. He has authored five books: Step by Step through the Old Testament; Biblical Hebrew Grammar; Joshua: Courage for the Future; As You Go: Biblical Foundation for Evangelism; and (with Kenneth Barker) Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, and Zephaniah in the New American Commentary. He is the current President of the Louisiana Baptist Convention
You have a goal that your church must accomplish. If you want your church to grow, you must keep it small.
It’s neither an oxymoron nor a paradox. It is simply this: as the church grows larger, the fellowship must grow deeper. Deeper fellowship gives the church a sense of being small. That’s what you want–a sense that the church is small.
How do you accomplish making your church “small?”
John Maxwell said it this way: “You walk slowly through the crowds.” I once had a pastor who never walked slowly through the crowds. He was in constant motion. He never seemed to have time for people. Though the church really was small, he lacked giving any meaningful time to people. I never felt that he had time for me and, consequently, I never felt valued by him. As I look back over the years, I realize that he was a fine man. He didn’t intend to harm me. But his actions kept the church from accomplishing so many things which God values. My posts on breaking the 100 barrier and staffing to grow not to plateau deals with some of the same issues of growing a church.
Maxwell counsels giving people time. Walk slowly through the crowds. Smile, look people in the eye, shake hands, call names.
We all want to know and to be known. When pastors, deacons, teachers, and other church members walk slowly through the crowds spending time with people, we make the church small, caring, and intimate. When the pastor is too busy for people, he chokes the life and growth out of the church.
The League of Church Members Extraordinary, Part 5
S.W.A.T. Team: Find the Sleeping Gifted
This is the last in a five part series on finding people within the congregation who can meet extraordinary needs in the life of the church. The previous articles are:
The League of Church Members Extraordinary
Leaders: Find the Devil in Pew Number Seven
Reach the Ugly Woman in the Balcony
Midwives: Find the Lost and the Seekers
A SWAT team is a small group of highly trained military or law enforcement people who can go into a tense and dangerous situation, armed to the teeth, able to respond in any way necessary. The initials stand for “Special Weapons And Tactics.”
No, we don’t require such combat specialists in the church, as far as I know.
I’m suggesting a different kind of S.W.A.T. team. Let’s have a small band of church leaders who are constantly on the alert for fellow members who have spiritual gifts that they are not using in the Kingdom or are under-utilizing them.
Such gifted church members are usually unaware of their spiritual endowments, of the ways in which they could be serving, and of the difference they could make in the lives of others.
Our job–your job, if you are one of those gifted by the Lord for this kind of work–is to find these people, open their eyes to what God has done in their lives, teach them, and then help them find their place of service. Find their calling.
The strange thing is that far more people believe that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to every believer than believe that there is a place of service in the Kingdom for each person. A rather odd little dichotomy, I think.