Tackling Small Church Myths, part 2
This is the next installment in our ongoing “Small Church” series, which looks at guest services through the lens of the smaller congregation: those with 150 or fewer people in attendance each week. See the entire series here.
In a recent post we looked at five myths that tend to tangle up smaller churches when it comes to hospitality. These are myths that we can’t correct if we’re not aware of them.
Myth #3 is “We can be all things to all people.” And to echo step one of the last post, I appreciate that sentiment. I really do. It’s tempting to adopt a chameleon-like strategy, where we change colors and patterns on a whim. When we see another church exploding because they’ve started their ministry du jour, it can evoke a bit of a keeping up with the Joneses mindset.
But there are three specific reasons I’d beg you not to fall for the “all things to all people” myth:
1. “All things to all people” doesn’t mean “provide everything for everybody.”
Paul’s declaration in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 was an individual one, meaning he was committing himself to contextualize the gospel in order to reach people from different backgrounds, and implying / exhorting other believers should do the same. What I don’t think he was doing was telling other churches to pursue every path when it comes to the lanes they run in.
You can’t do all things and do all things well. Your church can’t take on every need of your community and every nuanced ministry they may call for or indicate a desire for. And one of the reasons for that is simple:
2. You’ll exhaust everything and everyone around you.
Attempting to be all things to all people means that you will spin your wheels and never get traction. If you have 75 people in your congregation, and corporately you have 75 ministries to match, there’s no way to keep up that pace over the long haul. Your budget, your people, and your margin can’t bear the weight.
In my own context, I’m a part of a larger church with a larger budget. Financially, we could take on a decent chunk of ministry opportunities thrown our way. But we don’t. And you shouldn’t either, because:
3. You’ll dilute the calling God has placed on your church.
Every church has one commission: to go and make disciples. But I believe each church has a nuanced expression of that commission. The Church (big C) is compelled to reach all nations. Your church and our church (little c) may or may not make it to the coastal plain of Yemen in this lifetime.
My point: we are all a part of making disciples. And together, the big C Church can and should reach the nations together. You might be able to partner with a missionary family in San Andrés, Guatemala (who was sent out by another church), even if you can’t send short-term trips to all of South America.
To localize this illustration, let me quote Terri Durham. Terri and her husband Keith serve 41 churches in the Concho Valley Baptist Association in Texas, where Keith serves as Associational Mission Strategist. Terri has been a part of the advisory board for this small church series, and she says it best:
“The people who make up your church have different gifts and talents than the church down the street. Knowing what those are can help you refine your church’s calling. If a few healthcare professionals sit in the pews, maybe you’re better equipped than the church down the street to meet the needs of the uninsured in your area.
“Your local expression of the great commission will look different from the church down the street because the makeup of your members are different.
“Different church member make-up – coupled with different passions – equals different expressions of the same commission.”
Yes, the “nuanced expressions” can change for your church. But probably not every six weeks based on which way the wind blows. As my pastor often says, not everything that comes from heaven has your name on it.
So who are we?
This is all fine and good, but It’s not necessarily helpful to know what your church shouldn’t be doing or who it is that you’re not. The much better questions are, “Who has God specifically called your church to be? What are the focused lanes he’s called you to run in?”
I certainly can’t answer that for you, and I can’t even scratch the surface in a 700 word blog post. But we went through our own “Who are we and what are we about?” journey a few years ago. I talked about it in the final post in the “Values series,” which you can read here. What I can tell you is that knowing who you are will help you define who you’re not, at least not now.
Do you have an idea or question for the Smaller Church series? Reach out to me directly or comment below.