While on my way to Dordt College to speak a couple of weeks ago, I knew that an old friend (and well-known SBC blogger) lived on the way from the airport to the middle-of-nowhere where Dordt is. So, I sent Dave a note, took him to dinner, and visited his church.
Dave has always been a champion for small churches and for fair discourse. The blog he runs is the most read SBC blog and Dave has more influence than some entity heads in SBC life.
Well, this past year, he decided that the SBC pastors conference could use a fresh approach. Now, the SBC pastors conference is the big meeting before the business meeting, thousands of people come, and it’s an important gathering. The budget can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s quite an undertaking—and I’ve spoken at it several times.
So when Dave ran for election, no one though he would win. (One of my close friends ran against him—a well-known and godly man.) But Southern Baptists will surprise you and they decided to elect the pastor of a small church in Iowa (whose church budget is far less than the whole conference budget) to run one of the largest pastor conferences in the country. So, he did not really “take over,” as the tongue-in-cheek title said—he just won the election.
I wanted to ask him more! So, I sat down with Dave Miller in the sanctuary of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa and talked about the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. Below is my interview with Dave.
Ed: You’re a small church pastor and yet you won the election to be President of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. I think there was a message that Southern Baptists were sending to themselves. Sometimes people forget what a typical church looks like in the United States. Why are small churches—which are actually typical churches—overlooked so often?
Dave: We have been using the term “average church.” The Caskey Center uses “smaller membership,” but it is the same thing.
In our convention, 96% of churches have 400 or fewer people on Sunday morning and there are about 150 to 180 mega churches that run over 2,000 at their services. That means that the heart and soul of Southern Baptist work is to be found in churches that have fewer than 500 at Sunday morning worship.
But everything in our life as a denomination seems to be designed around the mega churches. They run things. They are the speakers at conferences, which are often geared toward teaching us how to turn our churches into mega churches like theirs. We love them and appreciate them, but many of our churches are never going to be megas, and in our context we don’t want to be. We tend to ignore the twin realities that many churches are not mega churches and never will be and act as if the SBC is a megachurch factory tooled to produce one product.
We wanted to demonstrate several things. More than anything, we wanted to bless people with quality preaching of God’s word. We also wanted to show that our churches had something valuable to offer our denomination.
I have grown up and spent my life ministering in small to medium-sized Southern Baptist churches. The biggest church I served was around 500 to 600. The smallest church was under 50. I have experienced rapid growth in a church—tripling in size in about a year—and I have watched with great frustration as a church declined. But all of these churches were filled with God’s people doing God’s work in real, valid, and important ways.
I have heard some great preaching and some poor preaching. But some of the best preaching I have heard was not from the pulpits of the large churches, but from the smaller and medium-sized churches. I wanted to show the SBC world that we had some things to offer the SBC. Quite frankly, we wanted to do something different—a different approach with different speakers and a different philosophy.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today