God has given the Church of the Nazarene a wonderful treasure in our small churches, and we need to make sure that it is not a hidden treasure. Over the last twentyfive years God has profoundly blessed us with an increasing number of larger churches.
For example, in USA/Canada we had nine churches over 1,000 in 1980, 15 in 1990, 30 in 2000, and nearly 60 in 2006. We celebrate this exciting development, but we do not do so to the neglect of the treasure we have in our small churches. Presently 70% of our USA/Canada churches are under 100, a total of over 3,600 churches. What a treasure we have in the potential of 3,600 missional small churches spread as transformational presence throughout the communities of USA/Canada. We are committed to nurturing missional churches and missional church leaders for all size churches, and I take this particular opportunity to celebrate some of what I am seeing in our missional small churches:
They Respond To God’s Calling-Pastor & People know in their soul God brought them together, and they cherish participating together in this Divine Calling. Being a small church is not an issue. They understand that faithfulness or significance is not defined by church size, and they live in the reality that they are about something “immeasurably more” than the size of their congregation. God brought them together, Pastor & People/Community of Faith, as His transformational presence in their community. They celebrate God’s calling them to a certain place & people, and they covenant together to incarnate God’s heart, a heart like Jesus who lovingly weeps over the people of Jerusalem as he approaches the city (Luke 19:41). Missional Small Churches are responding to God’s call to be His missionaries to their community.
They Prioritize Discipleship-Pastor & People understand that ministry flows out of their own discipleship. It is in the congregational DNA that each person is an engaged disciple. Pastor & People are first and foremost intimate followers of Jesus, and being a congregation and transformational presence in the community flows out of their relationship with Jesus. Henry Nouwen has described this necessary movement from Solitude to Community to Ministry. The temptation is to begin at the end, focusing on Ministry to the neglect of Solitude and Community, and the implications for succumbing to this temptation are far-reaching for the church. The Missional Small Church resists temptation to get this movement backwards and remains committed to prioritizing discipleship.
They Can Describe How They Are Making A Big Difference-Pastor & People recognize the transformational presence their church provides and how they are making a big difference. Those from the small church in Arizona describe the big difference they are making by providing for the basic needs of impoverished children at their neighboring elementary school. Those from the small church in Michigan describe the big difference they are making by helping to plant two churches in neighboring communities, both of which are now bigger churches than theirs. Those from the small church in Missouri describe the big difference they are making by listing for you the names of people they have helped to overcome addictions, find jobs, and locate housing. Those from the small church in Tennessee describe the big difference they are making by listing for you the names of preachers and church leaders that responded to God’s calling as young people in the life of their small church. Missional Small Churches focus on being the transformational presence God calls and gifts them to be, and they continually celebrate the big difference they are making.