I am a fan of Walmart. I admit I like the idea of one stop shopping and everything I could possibly want being under one gigantic roof. But the other day Jakson (my grandson) and I stopped in Haynes Hardware. A small store in our neighborhood that has snow shovels piled next to rat traps in the aisle behind cell phone cases. We had a blast. There was something about exploring the stuff up close, no sterile plastic packaging. Hands on!
Doris and I love Longhorn Steakhouse. Their honey barbecue grilled salmon is out of this world. We also like Friday’s and Olive Garden. But once or twice a week I eat at the Stone’s River Grill, a little “meat & three” close to my office where you can look through the window and talk to the chef while he grills your bologna sandwich, or you can get up and go over to the coffee pot and help yourself.
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the modern convenience of “bigness.” Our appetites and our expectations have developed as a culture to the place that huge hospitals, huge grocery stores, and huge car dealerships are the norm. That’s good. Variety. Quality. Talent. It’s all there.
I am also grateful that we have mega-churches. To be honest, I prefer my music and my message come from the big stage with flashing lights and smoke machines. I like the fact that if I forget my Bible the scripture will be flashed on three screens with the gentle waves of the Sea of Galilee in the background. When we have time off and get to pick where we go we go big. It is amazing to see the commitment of heart felt believers who park cars, greet, pass out bulletins, and direct traffic to get thousands of Christ followers in and out in a reasonable time. I absolutely and sincerely praise God for the huge churches that dominate the skylines of our cities. May their tribe increase.
But just like Haynes and the Stones River Grill, there is a place for the small, little, maybe neighborhood, or family church. Most of the small churches that still exist were founded around ministry to a particular location, Eastside Church, Mill Creek Church, or a large family, Turner Church, Suttlemyer Memorial Church. And all I’m saying is there is a crucial place in the Kingdom for them.
I grew up in tiny churches. Some of my fondest memories and my sister’s best jokes come from the little church. Remember the lady that patted Chonda on the back at the water fountain when she was about 4 and said, “This is our preacher’s daughter. She’s not very p-r-e-t-t-y.” To which Chonda replied, “No, but I’m very s-m-a-r-t.” That can only happen in the small church. Or the story of we kids sleeping with the evangelist because there was no money for a motel and Cheralyn wetting the bed all over him. I bet Joyce Meyers never had that problem.
Living in the small church is fun, enlightening, and maybe a pretty spiritual experience. For people who easily (or preferably) get lost in the crowd; for those who have their candle stick hid under a basket because you’re not good enough to sing or teach; for those who need to see the gospel very up close and personal, sitting beside the homeless guy, teaching a Sunday school class of kids that only came because they get free donuts and maybe go home with a coat, (hopefully one that was given to them J), for those kinds of people think about the tiny little church you drive by. It’s not spectacular but it is special. Maybe God would call you to pitch in there for awhile. At least until it began to grow and become a big church, then you might have to leave and find another one. J Mike
In addition to Directing Branches and blogging regularly Mike is the brand new pastor of a very small church in middle-Tennessee.