Editor’s Note: This is part three in a three part series on “What I Love About My Church.” The previous two posts by Drew and Tyler can be seen here and here. Also, a great article on the importance of church in general, written by Drew, can be found here. Be sure to check these out as well.
May 23, 2007 was a significant day in world history. There were no countdown clocks or big media stations prepared to report on it. There has been little talk of it since. But “Mayday 23” as demographers have called it, was the day that the world’s population became more urban than rural. I am no demographer or economist, but allow me to state the obvious: this has and will have an increasingly major impact on how the world works.
Mayday 23 has happened already in the world, and it is about to (if not already) happen in the church. According to some studies, 94% of all churches in America have under 499 in regular attendance. However, only about 50% of all churchgoers go to that 94%. That means the other half of all church goers go to 6% of the churches. In my state (Alabama… roll tide) and my denomination (Southern Baptist), the average church size is roughly 59 in regular attendance.
God uses churches of all sizes. So my point is not to talk poorly of large churches (which I would never do just because they are large) but to uphold the importance of small churches.
See, my church, Siloam Baptist Church is a “small” church. We fall into that 94% percent, along with the other 283,000 congregations in America. On the other hand, we are on the larger scale when looking at our state. I say all of this to say that all sized churches have an importance place in the Kingdom of God.
Yes, my church family ancestors did help found Judson College, Samford University, the Home Mission Board of the SBC (now NAMB), and the Alabama Baptist newspaper, but that’s not why I love my church.
I love my church because it has an importance place in the Kingdom of God.
And you should love yours for the same reason. I want to talk about three specific ways that God proves that these “small” churches are important to Him and how He uses them despite their size:
The first aspect about community that I love about my church is the community within the church itself. Everyone has a part to play; you can’t be a bystander. In a small church, we all depend on one another. The young depend on the old and vice versa. Where else could your children go weekly where they can have free interaction with all generations? There’s no other place on earth like a small church.
The second aspect is the community between other churches. Many small churches are in small towns. These churches can easily come together for community worship services or community projects. Here in the town of Marion, interdenominational services are not uncommon. Before I moved here, I had never been apart of such a community.
Discipleship happens naturally in many small churches. A couple of the students from our church help out one of the men for our church on his cattle farm. They have frequently come back to me to tell me how much they learn from him just while they are out working. Since we have a small staff as well, the pastor is able to really pour into me without me having to schedule an appointment with him four months out. Another man within the church is reading through Grudem’s Systematic Theology book, and we get to sit down and talk through that. If I was on staff at a large church, I most likely wouldn’t have time to just go to lunch with whoever whenever and talk theology. Also, since there is a strong sense of community, it is easy to serve within the town. From schools, to stores, to banks, to restaurants, we can be disciples of Jesus by serving people without backlash.
Love is really the foundation of the previous two characteristics. I moved to Siloam in 2014, and I have been showered with love continuously. People have brought me Chick-fil-A from over an hour away, I have stayed at people’s homes and have eaten in many people’s homes, fished at several of their ponds, and have received card after card of encouragement. It’s not just in my church I have felt that. I have preached in seven or eight small churches in this area and all seem to have a strong spirit of love and hospitality.
Jesus told His disciples, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). I love my church because they are the living embodiment of this verse.
I say all these things not to say that large churches can’t have these qualities, but that the smaller churches I have been apart of have displayed these qualities exceptionally. The tide is changing in church life with more and more people heading to the larger churches. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But let’s not forget the small churches, because God sees them as important and still uses them greatly.