Great Works Done by Small Congregations
Great Works Done by Small Congregations
By Paul R. Blake
There is an unintentional tendency to believe that great works are best accomplished in larger congregations. Some members of small congregations self-consciously apologize for not having a located preacher, or for having few members, or for having small Bible classes, or not having elders, etc. Some members of larger congregations thoughtlessly look at small congregations as if they were disabled, in a spiritual holding pattern, or even weak and substandard. However, there are some things accomplished in small congregations that can only be described as great works.
Small churches often give opportunities to young men from larger congregations to teach and preach on a regular basis, opportunities they would not have in larger congregations with located preachers and elders. This not only prepares the young men to be preachers and teachers, but it also serves to prepare them to become deacons and elders one day. Large congregations should not only be grateful to brethren in smaller neighboring works for helping them to develop these young preachers, they should express it publicly and often, at home as well as to their neighboring brethren.
Small churches provide a place of assembly and a place from whence the Gospel is proclaimed in areas distant from large congregations. They are often small churches because they are located in a place where the Gospel is “out of season” (2Tim. 4:2). They recognize that difficult areas need the Gospel, too; they understand that the few saints that live in difficult areas need to worship God and have fellowship with one another; and, they labor diligently to supply those needs, often knowing all the while that they may never be anything more than a small congregation.
They supply an example of perseverance and dedication to one another, to disciples who visit, and to non-Christians in their own community. They develop and refine Christians who work and worship with them, where they learn to grow in the Lord with fewer resources and under difficult conditions. Superficial observations by members of large congregations who visit with small congregations often consider such things as frail, off-key singing, or a hesitant, ineloquent preaching, or that several men had to fill multiple roles in the service. A more careful observer will see that these Christians have a determined spirit that is produced in an atmosphere of surviving ongoing hardship. They have lived what the Lord said to the suffering saints at Smyrna: “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer… you may be tested, and you will have tribulation... Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). It is more difficult to have this kind of training experience in larger congregations where there are a number of disciples who share the needs and a number of resources available to do the work.
I am not advocating that one congregation is better than another. The Lord certainly had as much regard for Smyrna (apparently a small congregation under persecution), as He had for the church at Ephesus (a larger congregation with whom the apostle Paul once labored). Nor am I suggesting that members of larger congregations migrate to smaller congregations. The truth is that both congregations are beloved by the Lord; both congregations are peopled by strong, faithful, sound Christians; both congregations do great works; and, disciples from both congregations will be blessed and rewarded by the Lord.
I Am Not Ashamed
By Krystal Dunlap
It is a good thing that my parents did not name me Grace. I will admit to being a klutz. I can amazingly trip over nothing, though I might claim there was an invisible object in my path that immediately disappeared. A few weeks ago, I demonstrated this in a grand way at church service. While walking to the pews, I managed to somehow wrap my foot around an item laid against the wall and fell flat. Ironically, it was not physical pain that plagued me. Rather, I was consumed with embarrassment in front of those who saw. The only bruise I sustained was the one on my pride.
Such chagrin does not solely affect me, but is quite widespread. Sometimes, it seems fear of embarrassment controls society. It is almost as if adults are a bunch of self-conscious middle schoolers. Many strive to fit in, even if it means giving up what they love, changing their personality, and agreeing with views that they find despicable.
There is a truth that Christians must accept, though. We will never fit in. In fact, scripture teaches that we will essentially stand out like a sore thumb. Others will be shocked by our behavior, criticizing us based on fleshly standards (1 Pet. 4:4-6). Peter shows an example of this. Despite his efforts to hide in the crowd, they recognized him as a disciple of Christ (Luke 22:55-60; Matt. 26:69-74).
Unfortunately, Peter denied his relation with Jesus for fear of the people. We must not follow in his example. We cannot hide in silence (Acts 18:9). Note that embarrassment of our Christian nature does come with consequences. If we act out of shame among the world, we will be rejected by the Lord in the same manner (Mark 8:38). Thus, we should not try to fit in due to fear of what others may think. Rather, remember that God will be with us, protecting us from any pain we may face from those who judge (2 Tim. 1:8-12).
Instead of feeling self-conscious, we should be proud of our uniqueness. Our Christian example is precious. It provides us with the opportunity to lead others to God (Matt. 5:14-16). Paul speaks of this multiple times in his writings. Though his faith put him in chains, he continued to preach the Gospel, not quietly to avoid further repercussions, but boldly (Eph. 6:19-20). In fact, he indicated that he did not care about the approval of man because God’s opinion was what mattered (Gal. 1:10).
So, do not worry as I did about bruised egos. Ignore the criticism of the world. Proudly set your spiritual light on a stand for everyone to see. Speak courageously about Christ to all without fear of consequence. In doing so, you will receive the favor of the Father and can help lead souls lost in the crowd to Him.
Of all the kingdoms ever told,
Of all the kings since days of old,
Of all the battles ever fought,
The souls of men that were ever bought,
Of righteous kings just and true,
There is only one that died for you.
All kingdoms built on blood and bone,
Heaven's kingdom on His blood alone.
By the blood of others, men gather and hoard,
The blood shed for me was shed by my Lord.
No treasure on earth could ever replace
The reward that I'll reap when I see His face.
So let them build kingdoms on the blood of others,
Forsaking the love of friends and brothers.
When God returns to reign on this earth,
I'll receive in fullness the gift of new birth.
To temptation and sin I'll no longer be prone,
In the kingdom built on His blood alone.
By James A Larson