I pastor a small church.
Not as small a it used to be, but still small by most standards.
In October 2004 I accepted the position of Pastor at Loma Rica Baptist Church . There were 12 people there at the time, and two of those would be moving out of state within a few weeks. Our attendance hovered around the mid teens to low twenties for the first year or so.
Somewhere around the end of 2005 I began to notice that we had grown. We were now running in the low thirties. We slowly continued to grow.
When 2006 came and went the high thirties was the norm, with the forties being the occasional surprise.
Then came 2007.
Except for an Easter service we had never had more than 42 or 43. One Easter service we had 50 and we were ecstatic!
2007 changed everything.
Sometime in the first part of this year we went over 50 in attendance, and except for two Sundays since then, we have never had less than 50. Last Sunday we had 65.
Again, 65 may not seem like much to you, but for a church that only seats about 80, and three years ago had 12 people in attendance, 65 is a big deal.
But there have been issues. Two families have left. Last week, due to a misunderstanding on my part and due to me assuming something without clarification I hurt a family (not physically of course). Now I’m sure this is not the first time I have hurt someone, but this time it was brought to my attention, and I felt terrible. I love the people at our church and I never would intentionally hurt any of them. After some conversation things were ok, but the damage was done. The scars will always be there. But I did learn a few lessons.
Lesson One: Make sure when you communicate, and when others communicate to you, that you are both clear on what is being said.
Lesson Two: I’m a human being and I make mistakes ( I already knew this, but I think God wanted to remind me).
Lesson Three: The more people coming to church, the more likely someone is going to get hurt.
Lesson Four: Big does not necessarily mean better.
The first three lessons are ones that most people in churches are aware of. The last one would be called heresy in some circles.
But I stand by it. Big does not necessarily mean better.
I believe the reason I hurt the people I did (and I will take the full responsibility here, they were the innocent party), is that I had focused more on the growth than what God has called me to do. God has called me to shepherd the people under me. I can’t shepherd the ones that leave. I can’t shepherd the ones who don’t come. Getting bigger got in the way of shepherding. Don’t misunderstand me. I still want Loma Rica Baptist to grow even more. With that will come space issues, job issues, building issues, conflict issues and issues with issues. But through it all I must remember I am not called to focus on issues. My focus must be on God, His word, and the people. If I do this, the issues will be dealt with, but not as the focal point, instead they will be dealt with as the by product of a healthy ministry.
I need to focus my time and energy on being a better Pastor, not on Pastoring an bigger church. If I will concentrate on the better and leave the bigger up to the Lord the results will be, well, better. I don't want to give the people I pastor just numbers to talk about during the week, I want to give them something life changing to talk about.
I have a job to do.
I am a shepherd.
I desire to draw people closer to God.
I close with lyrics to a song from Steve Taylor.
I Just Wanna Know
by Steve Taylor
Life's too short for small talk
so don't be talking trivia now
excess baggage fills this plane
there's more than we should ever allow
there's engines stalling and good men falling
but I ain't crawling away
I just wanna know--
am I pulling people closer?
I just wanna be pulling them to You
I just wanna stay angry at the evil
I just wanna be hungry for the true
Folks play follow the leader
but who's the leader gonna obey?
will his head get big when the toes get tapping?
I just wanna know are they catching what I say?
I'm a little too young to introspect
and I surely haven't paid all my dues
but there's bear trap lying in those woods
most of 'em already been used
Search me, Father, and know my heart
try me and know my mind
and if there be any wicked way in me
pull me to the rock that is higher than I
Ok, so there's that