In my last article I pointed out the fact that the “church” today needs to get back to the Bible, back to a literal interpretation, as well as correct application. Why is this necessary? Because the “church,” by and large has embarked upon what is called “Mission Creep.” She has taken on things which she was never ordained to do.
I'd like to look at why a smaller church is important.
Let me first explain what the true “Church” is. Technically, the word for church, in New Testament Greek, is ekklesia, which means “called out.” It is derived from “ek,” which means out, and “kaleo,” which means called. So, it is a “called out assembly.”
A properly functioning body relies on the gifts and callings of the members of that particular local Body. And, one thing that needs to happen is that those members need to be together, functioning as a cohesive unit.
The biggest problem with “Mission Creep” is that the Pastor is no longer a servant/shepherd. He is now a leader of a corporation, with the goal of temporal success, rather than that of eternal glory.
Though dealing primarily with the Lord’s protection of Israel in the yet future Millennial Kingdom, the Prophet Isaiah has this wonderful promise, which is the Christian can learn a great lesson from.
For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.
-Isaiah 52:12 KJV
This passage deals with God's leadership, and protection. Notice that the Lord goes before you. He is the leader, the one to follow. His example is one to be trusted. Then, it says the "...God of Israel will be your rereward." Another words, He holds the rear guard position.
Jesus gives us the same idea regarding Israel, and their rejection of Him.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
-Matthew 23:37 KJV
I am a dad. My default position when out in a public place is to be behind the family. I make sure everyone is safe in front of me. If I were in front only, my tendency is to walk fast, leaving everyone behind.
A pastor fulfills the same role in the church. He is to lead the congregation through the Scriptures, and also through example. The example is not to encourage people to follow their dreams, or temporal goals, but to feed and protect them through the Word of God.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
-John 10:1-13 KJV
The example of the "Good Shepherd" shows that many would attempt to bypass the "Door." That is the Lord Jesus Christ, and attempt another way into the fold. They would attempt to "steal, kill and destroy." This enemy is not Satan (though we can certainly make the case that the enemy is certainly under the subtle influence of him). The enemy is one whose doctrine would usurp Christ. Jesus was speaking quite directly about, and directly to, the Pharisees!
Pastors, be sure you are not only in front, but keep the rear guard. Watch out for those who promote another way, or a new way.
Now, back to why a small church is important.
1. Ineffective - It is easy to "lead" a large number of people. Just look at the crowds of people who follow different teachers, doctrines, philosophies and movements. Yet, are these people being guarded?
2. Impossible - It is impossible to effectively minister to a large crowd. I know there are exceptions to this, but by and large many Pastors have taken too many under their care, and they soon lose sight of the will of God. PREACH THE WORD!
3. Isolation - Pastors if larger churches tend to be distant from their flock. Remember, you are part of the flock, not a Lord over it! Peter's words are so appropriate:
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
-1 Peter 5:1-4 KJV
The pastor is an under-shepherd of the Lord, and should be on the same level. There is no such thing as going to the next level. All people who have received the Gift of Salvation are equal - regardless of race or financial status!
It is your job to feed and encourage those in your care unto these things.
It is my opinion that a church is most successful (by successful I mean that they are FAITHFUL to the Word, Will and Work of the Lord) when there are roughly 100 people, or less.
When the church assembly gets larger than that, maybe it's time to plant another church (that's a topic for another time).
I know having a small church will not command the salary of a large church, but maybe it's time to reevaluate why you are in the ministry.
And, think of this: Did that church become large because of faithfulness to the Lord? Or, did it grow due to "Mission Creep?"
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
-1 Corinthians 4:1-2 KJV