When I began the adventure back in October of serving two churches part-time, I needed to get creative with how I was going to lead as a pastor. So, when the New Year began, I started a series of sermons using the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-12 as a backdrop to a conversation on what it means to live as Jesus lived. I titled the series,“Are you living the Jesus lifestyle?” I must admit I stole the title from a book. It’s nothing fancy. It’s simple and direct. It’s something I believe, that we who help lead small churches, need to help folks in our pews begin to truly grasp, if there is any hope of the small church remaining viable in a world where the small church is indeed struggling to be a faith community with more than just a pulse.
When you’re a solo pastor of a small church there is this tendency of looking across town at the big church with all of the bells and whistles. Of course I’ve been part of churches that had some really big “bells and whistles,” and I know some wonderful Christ centered churches that are truly being obedient to the commands of Jesus and using their resources they’ve been blessed with to love their neighborhoods and to help proclaim God’s love. It’s how we use those bells and whistles in living as Jesus lived and caring for the people in our communities that matters most.
In small church ministry especially when there aren’t a whole lot of resources or people for that matter and if you’re the only staff person, it’s too easy to sit and daydream about what the world would be like if, “we only had more people or more programs?” I know I can’t be the only solo pastor in this world that has recited that famous statement, “If we only had the resources they had down the street.” It’s a statement that really can burden any church if they’re using it as a means to gauge how the church is doing or should be doing. It’s a statement that can throw anyone who has been called to help lead a church into a funk of messiness that clouds our ability to engage with those in our communities who are searching for a smidgen of hope in this world.
I recently heard Dale Bruner talk about Matthew 5:5 and that the meek of this world are the little people. Not the people who are busy trying to get ahead in life. It’s the people who are doing God’s work unnoticed and who aren’t looking for the accolades. The little people in this world are the ones who have been broken and who have experienced brokenness, they are the poor in spirit, the spiritually poor, the ones who have admitted their need for God in their lives.
I really believe that in order for the small church to remain viable with more than just a pulse, we, the people of God need to reorient ourselves to the idea that it’s not about the bells and whistles anymore. It’s not about getting ahead and using the big church down the street as a way to gauge the life or death of a church, but it’s the people of God, who are willing to go unnoticed in this world when it comes to caring about what God cares about. It’s the people of God taking ownership in the way we lead not from the front, but from the back. It’s the people of God, the little people, who care about the poor in spirit in a way that conveys the transforming power of God to love and heal those who have been broken. God’s mission in the world is people and as the Lenten season has begun I can’t help but think there are a whole lot of people in our communities that have never experienced this kind of redemptive power, so, God’s mission needs to be our mission.
The ministry of the little people doesn’t cost a penny and it doesn’t require a membership fee with what’s hip out there in the world of church growth. It just means getting a little creative with what we already have in the church. It means equipping the little people we have to move forward in a way that not only impacts the people already coming, but that changes the world and changes our neighborhoods for Christ.
Here’s to the little people.