According to the National Congregations Study, the average church in America has a regular Sunday morning attendance of 75 people. Small churches continue to be the norm, though the larger mega-churches get all the notice. This is particularly true in the large rural areas of our country.
A church with 75 people in attendance on Sunday morning would be considered a large congregation where I was born and raised. My mother, for example, currently attends New Life Church of God in Christ in Idlewild, MI. The pastor of this small rural church lives in Benton Harbor, MI and for the past 10 years has traveled 163 miles one way every Sunday to preach to 20-25 people (on a good Sunday), who are mostly older women. This seems outrageous to most of us. And I would have to admit, that my commitment would be called into question if I had to endure such circumstances in order to preach and pastor. And yet, when I was a young boy growing up in that community, this was not the exception, but the norm.
Of the three pastors I remember pastoring our church, only one actually lived in the community. After he died, the next two pastors traveled good distances every week to preach and lead our church on Sunday morning, and often Wednesday evenings. Like most of the pastors in our community, these black men were bi-vocational. They lived and worked in the factories and industries of the city and yet would joyfully take up their pastoral callings on the weekend. Traveling those great distances often through rain and snow with little pay, and hoping someone shows can be tiresome and discouraging. Yet, they did it for the sake of Christ, his church, and his people.
As a church planter for over 6 years now, I often need to be reminded that a big church in this world does not correlate to the best seat in the kingdom of God. In fact, if we understand Jesus correctly, the faithful with the least in this world will be those with the most in the world to come (Mt. 19:30).
Therefore, when the ministry gets difficult and tiring for me — when I find the valleys seemingly outnumbering the peaks it helps to reflect upon those faithful men of God of my youth — men whose names are not in history books, or spoken about with great respect for their charismatic presence and lofty sermons. They didn’t lead any great social movement or prominent denomination. You can’t YouTube their sermons or read them in preaching anthologies. They won’t be quoted in preaching classrooms. And yet week in and week out they stood before God’s people and proclaimed God’s word as best they could. And as a testament to them most of those churches, still small, are yet still standing.
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SOURCE: The Front Porch
Tony Carter serves as the Lead Pastor of East Point Church. Tony is married to his beloved, Adriane Carter, and their marriage has bore the fruit of five wonderful children. Holler at him on Twitter: @eastpc