My parents’ efforts have given me an appreciation for people who pastor smaller churches. I know what it is like to struggle because I watched my parents struggle.
Smaller churches today are somewhat like the neighborhood grocery store when Wal-Mart comes to town. Smaller churches have to compete with larger churches that offer a full-service ministry to people. This is not an easy assignment.
With one-third of Assemblies of God churches are under 50, and one-third between 50 and 100, we have many unsung heroes who are faithfully doing the Lord’s work.
My mother would say, “Georgie, when we stand before God, He will not ask us if we have been successful, but if we have been faithful.”
The largest church my parents ever pastored may have had 130 people for a few Sundays. Most of their churches had 20, 30, and 40 people. But they served those people well. They loved them. They tried to disciple them.
Because of my history in and around small churches, I’m also aware that some struggle in ways that can be changed and lead to greater growth.
One of the core values I added to my list after elected general superintendent was to revitalize existing churches. It is often more difficult to revitalize a church than plant a new one — or as someone has put it, “It’s easier to birth a baby than raise the dead.”
Because a task is difficult, however, does not mean we should abandon it. The Holy Spirit has infinite capacity to renew a church. We have a legion of stories about churches that have made the recovery from smoldering ashes to glowing fires.
One of those is the story of New Community Church in Mesquite, Texas. Scott Wilson’s church, The Oaks, in Red Oak, Texas, adopted a dying church and tasked Chris Railey and his family with overseeing its transition from 40 members to just under 100. At that time, Scott appointed Chris as pastor and the church began a journey to autonomy.
Through community outreaches, Chris and the church ended up revitalizing their entire small urban Texas town. The congregation grew from about 80 people to nearly 700, with 1,200 decisions for Christ.
This success story is miraculous but it’s also within reach of most of our churches on the brink of extinction. Let’s all do what we can to fan the flames of churches dying in communities that desperately need the flame of the Holy Spirit active in their midst.