The first church I pastored was, on a good Sunday, fifty people. I remember seeing a cartoon about a pastor who wanted to start small groups. “But pastor, our church is a small group!” I’m not sure I laughed.
I spent seven years at that church. I loved them, and for the most part, they loved me. But I occasionally grew frustrated that the church wasn’t bigger. I think I thought that I deserved more.
What a horrible, twisted thought.
I wish I’d read Francis Schaeffer’s book No Little People back then.
No Big Pastors
I would have discovered that there are no big people. Schaeffer writes, “The Scripture emphasizes that much can come from little if the little is truly consecrated to God. There are no little people and no big people in the true spiritual sense, but only consecrated and unconsecrated people.”
Schaeffer understood the temptation to want a bigger ministry:
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 back-wards: we should consciously take the lowest place unless the Lord Himself extrudes us into a greater one.
Schaeffer advises us to take the lower places. In the smaller places, it’s easier to maintain quietness before God. It’s also a place to deal with our ego. If we aren’t content to lay aside our proud ambition, we’re not qualified for Christian ministry.
To paraphrase Schaeffer, there’s no such thing as big or small pastors, but only consecrated and unconsecrated pastors. It’s good for us to lay aside our desire to be big, and instead ask God to make us holy.
No Little Churches
There are no big pastors, and there no little churches. Schaeffer writes, “As there are no little people in God’s sight, so there are no little places. To be wholly committed to God in the place where God wants him—this is the creature glorified.”
Schaeffer challenges one of our blind spots. We think that size will show success. If we are consecrated, there will be large numbers of people and money. “This is not so. Not only does God not say that size and spiritual power go together, but He even reverses this (especially in the teaching of Jesus) and tells us to be deliberately careful not to choose a place too big for us.”
Is this a small matter? Schaeffer doesn’t think so. An emphasis on big works and big places is a return to our old, unconverted, egotistic selves. It’s “more dangerous to the Christian than fleshly amusement or practice. It is the flesh.”
The most egregious sin in the room may be the sin of the pastor who thinks that he’s too big for his church.
One Thing Is Important
I’ve never seen a small church, and I’ve never met a big pastor. Every church matters. It’s a privilege to be a pastor, and no church is beneath us.
Years later, I’m planting a church and having the time of my life. It’s small, but I think I’m learning my lesson. “Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God’s place for us, at each moment,” said Schaeffer. That’s what I want for myself, and for every good pastor I know.