“SMALL CONGREGATIONS”

 

Neal Pollard

I grew up in Georgia mostly attending congregations that weren’t numerically large.  I never attended a church of more than 200 until I went to college, but even then the two churches I preached for during that time were smaller than that. I have preached full-time for three congregations, and two of them were smaller than 200. Yet, when I speak of small congregations, I am talking about those less than 50.  They typically have a hard time supporting a preacher full-time, almost never have elders or much spiritual leadership at all, and would often consider themselves to be “struggling” in some way.  While they have their share of weaknesses and reasons for being small—from internal strife to a lack of evangelistic zeal—they are special and valuable to God and often striving to get Christ into their communities.  Out here in the west, I’ve attended several of them in Colorado, Utah, Kansas, Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico, and California.  But it is not a phenomenon unique to regions outside the Bible belt.  My father works to help and strengthen churches in the Carolinas in that state, as he did for so many years in Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and even Tennessee.  My brother and I both began full-time preaching in small churches in Alabama.  Rural America is full of small churches, but we are fully aware that these exist on every continent and many nations.  Some countries have fewer than 50 Christians in them, and there are even nations where the Lord’s church does not exist.

Having recently been with a small congregation, I was reminded of how big their faith, sense of family, and desire to make an impact for the Lord such churches can be.  I visited with a man who was one of about 5 members in a church about 50 miles from Twin Falls, Idaho.  They support a preacher in Kenya, mass media via Gospel Broadcasting Network (GBN), and buy Bibles to distribute in several nations. Their building is paid for and they are so desirous of doing whatever they can to reach their tiny community but also the global community.  Would you really call them a “small congregation”?

I have been exposed to more than one church where hundreds or more attended that rarely grow except through membership transfer, whose activities are heavily weighted inwardly—focused on entertaining, pleasing, and spending on themselves, and whose leaders are visionless and whose pulpits are powerless.  Couldn’t we call these “small congregations” in a way much more tragic?

I don’t want to ever be a part of a small congregation.  Even if the group with whom I work and worship are a few dozen or a handful, I pray I will do what I can to help them dream, plan, and do big things and not be small.  Our Lord is big and great.  The church is His body and as such should never be small!

About preacherpollard

preacher, Bear Valley church of Christ, Denver, Colorado
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16 Responses to “SMALL CONGREGATIONS”

  1. Jon Mitchell says:

    ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. (Revelation 3:8 NASB)

  2. Ken Bagwell says:

    Great article. You shown a different aspect of looking at “Small congregations vs Large congregation. Living in the Carolina’s all my life I’ve attended mostly “Small Congregations” but then most of them have been big in spirit I’m glad to say. They have their problems like the larger ones have but because they’re small the problems seem bigger. We have to pray for strength and guidance like everyone else but because they don’t usually have the qualified leaders they need and so they have to be more attentive to the word of God to ensure that they are true to His word.

  3. Terry Pittman says:

    We attend a small, in number large in evangelical effort, congregation in Tennessee and they have been such a blessing to us. They have a mission fund and contribute to it once a month as well as supporting a missionary in the field. They are able thru the mission fund to provide funds to individuals to help them on short term mission trips. They are constantly looking for ways to evangelize and are far more active than some of the larger congregations I have been affiliated with.

  4. Amen. I grew up in a less than 50 congregation. My parents still attend and daddy still teaches there. They are only 6 in numbers. Yet the Lord continually sends them lost sheep to tea have and care for. People often ask why they don’t just close and go somewhere else. Daddy says as long as there is work to do here and people to love and breath in his body, they will keep going.

  5. David Kenney says:

    I appreciate the article Neal! We are a congregation that is doing well to have 30 in attendance on Sunday mornings, but we live in a community that has provided us free access to a professional TV station, free studio time, the broadcasting of our program six times a week (plus four times a week for “In Search of the Lord’s Way”), and the TV station sends our program to be aired on Gospel Broadcasting Network. We are fighting on… All this from wonderful Wadsworth, Ohio.

  6. Mike Lanier says:

    This is a very good article Neal . I’am part of one of those so called small congregations . The Duluth church of Christ in Duluth Ga. . We might be small ( for now ) we have been big other times . But we have a lot of very strong Christian that work very hard , we are also the home for Truth for the world http://www.tftw.org .

  7. Don Ruhl says:

    That picture looks like the meeting place of church in Kimberly, Idaho. I held a Gospel Meeting there a few years ago.

  8. Steve Watts says:

    At a Boy! Loved it. Now, let’s get to work.

  9. dalejenkins says:

    You’re always right on target! Thanks.

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