I’ve heard many people say that, in the 21st century, it will not be the size of the church, but its health that will ensure its survival. I doubt if most people realize that more than 100,000 churches in the United States (nearly one-third) have 50 attendees or fewer. That means that the average church will have fewer than 100 worshipers this Sunday. So, in spite of all the press the megachurches receive, we are still essentially a nation of small- to medium-sized churches.
For some pastors, serving in a small church creates something of a self-image problem. We look at the big church on the hill, compare ourselves to that operation, and feel inadequate or insignificant. Every new best-selling book by another pastor that turns up in your local bookstore hits you in the stomach like personal failure. Salary comparisons, hosting TV shows, appearing in newspaper stories, or anything glamorous or glorious happening in the life of another local or national pastor cuts deeply. You feel less than adequate, unsuccessful. Not so, my friend!
In The Heart of a Great Pastor, Neil Wiseman and I wrote: “Every assignment is holy ground because Jesus gave Himself for the people who live there. Every place is important because God wants something incredibly important to be accomplished there through us. Every situation is special because ministry is needed in that place. Like Queen Esther, we have come to the Kingdom for a time like this.” All of these factors should give a pastor a much-needed sense of destiny about his assignment.
In other words, there are no small assignments, and none of you is insignificant in any way. You are needed, important, and empowered by God. You serve in the middle of the action. God wants to enable you to transform your present assignment into holy ground — a place where He accomplishes supernatural achievements through ordinary people.
Eugene H. Peterson puts a new spin on Jesus’ words in his paraphrase of the Scriptures, The Message: “When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant” (John 15:5).
Many pastors struggle as they grasp for the elusive feeling of fulfillment in their ministries. They complain about the low level of affirmation that comes from their congregants. It affects their morale, they say. Well, read again what Neil Wiseman and I wrote on that very subject in our book: “Unless ministers find a high level of meaning in their work, they almost never have a significant impact on a congregation or a community. … No pastor can depend on anyone else to feed his feelings of fulfillment. It is an inside job, but anyone can achieve it. …
“Genuine fulfillment is rooted in knowing what ministry is and then doing it energetically and creatively. You know better than anyone else when your ministry is vibrant and satisfying. You know what pleases God. This is what matters most in measuring meaning in ministry.”
Real fulfillment comes from knowing that you are where God wants you to be, doing what He desires you to do, and, when possible, receiving from a group of people who lovingly acknowledge your leadership. Stay the course, my friend!
“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).