Close to twenty years ago, I was invited to be the co-speaker at a missions conference held in a different state. At the time, I was pastoring a church with about 120 adult members. The other pastor was a close friend of mine whose church averaged about 2,500 adults per week in attendance.
God had implanted His heart for the world into the spiritual DNA of both of us to the degree that global missions wasn’t a just a slice of each of our church’s ministry pie, it was the pan that all of the slices of the church’s ministry rested within.
Because of that, even though we were miles apart from one another in different states and led congregations that were substantially different in size, the vision for global missions that we shared and the various ways each of us was imparting and expressing that vision within our churches was usually a major part of our conversations with one another.
We met together at the hotel the night before the conference began and got caught up with what each other had been doing, and then talked through the details of the conference and what each of us would be focusing on in our assigned sessions. When we saw that there would be a special breakfast and interactive discussion time on the last morning of the conference with only senior pastors present, we decided that we would each share a few thoughts, with him going first, and after I shared, open it up to a time of questions and answers.
My guess is that there were about 120 people that attended the conference, and we ended up having breakfast with a dozen senior pastors on the last morning.
DISCERNING A COMMONLY HELD FALSE ASSUMPTION
Because I was in deep thought about the things I would share with the group, I wasn’t really paying attention to the facial expressions or other non-verbal responses of the pastors as my friend talked about a few of the things the church he pastored was involved in overseas–but he was.
And as a result of his finely tuned ability to decipher non-verbal communication, he cut short what he had planned on saying and proceeded to tell them he knew what they were thinking–that if they had a congregation the size of his, and the amount of resources he had, they could do those things too, but because they pastor small churches, they couldn’t relate to what he saying.
After telling them that, he said they need to pay close attention to me and to keep in mind that the level of global engagement and impact I would tell them about was being accomplished by a church with just a few more than 100 adult members.
WHAT A SMALL CHURCH CAN DO
With all eyes now focused on me, I gave them a summary of these things:
–The number of our members we had sent to the mission field, and the percentage of our congregation that represented
–The percentage of our budget we committed to them and other global endeavors
–How many of our folks were involved with caring for them
–What we were doing in our local community that was also an expression of our vision for reaching across the street and around the world.
Their attention never waned while I spoke–they were riveted on me.
WHAT A FRESH UNDERSTANDING PRODUCES
When I finished, I told them to ask either one of us any questions that they might have, and we’d do our best to answer as simply and as quickly as possible.
The first question was directed to my friend.
Every other question during the remaining forty five minutes we had left, was directed to me.
It actually got a bit awkward after a while, but every time I glanced over at my friend, he smiled, nodded in approval, and gave me a thumbs up to keep going.
After closing our time together in prayer, a number of the pastors approached me and said that they were thankful for how I dismantled what they now realized was a false conviction–that the ability of a church to be actively engaged in what God is doing around the world isn’t limited by the size of the congregation.
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