Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Little Love For the (Truly) Small Churches

I have just returned from another day of preaching at a small church that is in dire need of direction, understanding, spiritual leadership, and most of all stability in the pulpit. The particular church I preached at today has not had a Full-Time pastor since 1997. They have tried to call freshly-ordained Seminary students but cannot quite "get anybody to come". They tried the CLP route (which my Mother is one) but could not find one that would stick with them in times of trouble. They have been abandoned for "greener pastures" by more pastors than the poor Clerk of Session could count. They believe themselves to have been forgotten by their presbytery but more dangerously forgotten by God. They see the Methodists and Baptists-worse yet the word of faith gospel churches-growing but they continue to shrink as each member dies off. And they cannot understand why the word of faith churches grow but they do not. For example, while I was there today during the Joys and Concerns before the Pastoral Prayer they asked me to pray "that children would start coming to their church". In my young and naive experience with presbyteries that have large numbers of these types of churches they have tendency to see the rural, low-member churches as nuisances rather than as a mission-area to be culled. They would rather these churches-that can barely scrap together 1/10 of the per-capita of the larger, more urban and ethnically diverse churches-disappear so that they can refocus themselves in other areas instead of spending time, resources, and money trying to support these rural churches. We focus our efforts globally and forget that our rural churches need support as well. I may be a bit biased as I come from a background of attending small, rural (less than 15 members in one case) Presbyterian Churches. I grew up defending Presbyterianism-more importantly Sola Gracia and true Salvation by Faith Alone-from attacks from the independent Baptists that I grew up with. Presbyterianism is dying in rural America. It died once from a lack of pastors, let us hope that the clergy will not allow this to happen again.


Todd Bensel said...

Here's a big hearty amen from the 4th smallest presbytery in the PC(USA) - Eastern Oregon Presbytery, which is what you described to a "T"! Small, rural, mostly traditional, and full of faith, love, and Biblical beliefs. CLPs are fulfilling a crucial role here - but hope is spread thin and some do not even consider these to be "true" churches. How very sad!

Presbyterian Gal said...

God bless your support of the small in number. After all, it's not the numbers that matters. I'd wager that these smaller in number are likely often truer in spirit.

Anonymous said...

From what this small church pastor sees, there are two primary reasons for this:
1. The churches that have lost their passion. It shows and the community knows it. Who would want to join that?

2. Poor leadership. You know--careless pastors, mediocre presbyteries, do-nothing sessions, etc.

I have yet to see a joyful and passionate congregation fail, no matter its size. If you are so in love with Jesus that any visitor can see it and feel it, then you will live. It's that simple to me.

Great post.

Chuck said...

Keep up the good work. There might be a good field of labor here for you. You're right, they need stability to lay a new foundation.