Every young minister has his dream of becoming the hard working and anointed preacher that turns a small struggling church into a huge mega church. Reality soon sets in however as the elderly members and quarreling deacons in that small struggling church became a nightmare instead of a dream. To help these young men every seminary should have a class called real ministry 101. The teachers should be working pastors in small churches that teach from experience. Until that happens here are some doses of reality.
One, most churches are small, 80% of churches run under 100 in attendance. This means 80% of ministers will pastor a small church. While this reality may destroy a few dreams, it should also be an encouragement. It means that most Christians are also part of small churches. While there may not be as much Glory attached to pastoring a small church, this is where the real work is and where the real impact for God is.
Two, God’s measurement of success is not the same as the worlds. God measures His servants by faithfulness and obedience, not by numbers and size. Keeping God’s standard in mind brings new joy to the small things of ministry. Ministers must get settled in their hearts and minds that they deal with sinful fallen people and that they themselves are fallen creatures. Understanding these realities will enable a minister to cope when the inevitable conflict arises.
Tradition in churches is also a reality. Every church has traditions. Some traditions are long standing denominational and cultural traditions. Some traditions are unique to the congregation. One of the greatest mistakes new ministers make is to throw out these traditions. While it is true that some traditions need to go away for revival to occur, it is often the traditions which are the threads that cement people from generation to generation.
When a minister is willing to accept that faithfulness to God is more important that the accolades of a Christian community centered on worldly success the idea of pastoring a small church offers different rewards. Rewards like entering into a long tradition of faith and service. Recently I filled the pulpit in a country church, actually at the corner of two dirt roads and across from a field of corn. This church was established in 1887, 126 years ago. The 16 people in attendance spanned three generations and were related to some of the founders. Some could say this church should be closed, that it isn’t reaching a community, that it is tradition riddled and hopeless. But it could also be seen as a faithful Christian community that has transcended time and generations and is struggling to survive and thrive in a shrinking rural area. The minister of such a church may find the reward of actually entering into the life of struggling people who are searching for significance in changing times. The joy of sharing in the births and deaths, the marriages and lives of people, the challenge of leading these people before the throne of the God and savior who is the only one who can give the significance they are seeking.
Ministers, are you up to it? Are you up to something that is far greater than prestige and position? Are you up to finding joy in the small things and ordinary people that God makes himself known through? This is reality. This is real ministry 101