Choose the Lesser Place
The first church I pastored was a humble affair. They all are, really. There were only about 30 people, but it seemed like more because some of them were characters. We stayed for seven years, and loved almost every minute.
There was nothing at all that was glamorous about pastoring that church. To most, it was inconsequential. I was careful not to see that church as a stepping stone, but I remember sensing a desire for a larger and more significant ministry.
I’m not alone. We’re uncomfortable with the small, insignificant places. We want to make a difference in places that really matter.
In his book The Imperfect Pastor, Zack Eswine challenges this way of thinking. “Smaller is always better than larger,” he advises, “unless, and only if, God extrudes us.” Pastors: look for small, insignificant churches that nobody else wants, unless God forces something else on you.
The basis for Eswine’s advice is Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14:7-11 to seek the lowest, not the highest, seats at the table. He quotes Francis Schaeffer:
All of us—pastors, teachers, professional religious workers and nonprofessional included—are tempted to say, “I will take the larger place because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ.” Both individual Christians and Christian organizations fall prey to the temptation of rationalizing this way as we build bigger and bigger empires. But according to the Scripture this is backwards: we should consciously take the lowest place unless the Lord Himself extrudes us into a greater one.
The word extrude is important here. To be extruded is to be forced out under pressure into a desired shape. Picture a huge press jamming soft metal at high pressure through a die, so that the metal comes out in a certain shape. This is the way of the Christian: he should choose the lesser place until God extrudes him into a position of more responsibility and authority. (No Little People)
“Most of us have no category for what I just said,” writes Eswine. “We need help.”
Nothing against big places. It’s just that we shouldn’t push ourselves there, and we must learn contentment in the small places. Small places matter. We need God’s grace to take the lowest seats, and to find our identities in him rather than the size of our charges