I’m a small church kind of guy. Really I am. I know that I drive past dozens of small churches on my way to the 2,000 plus attendee church I attend each Sunday or Saturday night. I look at them as I go past and wonder what is happening behind those walls. I am drawn like a bug to a lamp. Walk toward the light… no! I resist.
Still I drive to our church, park in the lot and walk more than 50 feet to the front door. Once inside I go to one of the five check in kiosks for children’s ministry and touch the screen with my secret code. It spits out a sticker for my son’s shirt and two corresponding stickers for mom and dad. We walk past the custom espresso shop in the commons and the wall of free drip coffee, caff and decaf, hot water and teas with custom branded cups and lids. We take our son to one of several rooms colorfully decorated and staffed with several conscientious volunteers who will teach my son about Jesus. They will keep him safe and secure until we produce our little sticker at the end of service in order to redeem our child. I often wonder if they would give him back if we said we lost our sticker. I suppose they would if we left him with them long enough. He can be a difficult child if he doesn’t get his lunch!
I used to always attend smaller churches, 200 or less. Sometimes 50 or so. When I attended them I was important specifically. At the large church I am important generally. If I quit giving at the large church it doesn’t even make a percentage point move to the left or to the right. If I didn’t give at the small church there was an immediate call for a meeting of the budgeting committee. The youth pastor’s job usually hanging in the balance.
In the small church I was always needed. I sing, play guitar, am a decent teacher, preacher, and sound technician. I write (surprised?) and connect and can do better secretarial work than most paid executive assistants. If I didn’t volunteer things didn’t get done. Now in the big church there are at least fifteen people who can do everything I can do and do it better. It isn’t a matter of simply volunteering. It is a matte of whether or not I am the best qualified of the dozens of other volunteers or not.
In the big church I cannot charm, skill, volunteer, or donate enough to boost my importance. If I don’t show up no one notices. If I don’t give no one gets fired. Suddenly I have nothing of value to offer that God hasn’t already placed there, and it is just me and God. Perhaps we are on to something here. Perhaps its not about what I can do but rather what I can be. If I am to lead or to do, perhaps having God make the way for that to happen, rather than for me to rely upon my own sense of razzle-dazzle to make a way for me to feel important is a far better option. And finally perhaps it is the best thing of all for me to realize that my importance to God has absolutely nothing to do with what I can produce or give. Even my relationships within the big church are reduced to that same denominator. I have nothing special to offer other than my willingness.
Small churches are amazing places where dedicated people work hard to make things happen. I guess big churches are amazing for the same reasons. Maybe I’m not a small church kind of guy after all. Maybe I’m not a big church guy either. Perhaps I just love God and love people and can be wherever God wants me to be and be content.