A small, gracious church invites me to preach for them occasionally. I was there on Valentine’s Day. Preaching on Valentine’s Day presents a wonderful opportunity to present the love of God. Jesus said loving God and loving your neighbor are the greatest commandments.
I purchased candy Valentines to give to all the ladies before I preached. Sermons should begin with attention-grabbing words, and the Valentines would help. Imagine my surprise when I walked into church and people began giving me Valentines, cards, candy, well wishes — so much for my sermon surprise.
The exchange of Valentines reminded me of an old school day Valentine party. I watched one young lady eat her candy before the service began. When I handed her my Valentine gift, I asked if she would like a refill. She blushed, smiled, and said, “Thank you” as she accepted the package.
A determined vibrancy pervades this small church. Many people, perhaps even most, judge a church by its size, “that big church.” I rejoice when I hear of churches that reach the many. I never wanted to be pastor of a church that was so satisfied they did not want to reach people. However, my later years of ministry have given me a new appreciation for the small church.
Most small churches have a rich history. At one time they were a good, exciting place to attend where folk loved you and supported your efforts to grow a God-loving family. Then, the kids grew up and moved away, leaving the congregation old and few. By that time, there was a cemetery on the church property where parents, grandparents, and even some children were buried.
Right before their eyes, the congregation became small and old. Ministry became difficult. The church made a valiant effort to reach new people; but alas, there were few people left. Those remaining were attending the big church in town that “met their needs” better.
These small churches might easily be likened to the biblical remnant. They are the faithful who keep the spirit of God alive until God does a new thing. Such, it seems, is the ministry of the small church like the one where I joyously preached today. There are thousands of churches like them. May God bless and prosper them until he brings a new day.
Wade Paris writes a weekly syndicated column, “The Shepherd Calls.”