Although I currently worship at a larger size church, I have spent a fair amount of my life attending smaller churches. Recently I attended a smaller sized church, and it gave me some time to reflect on these numerous islands of Christ that permeate America.
Their number is a little deceiving. For example, 1 in 5 Wesleyans attends a single large church. That means this large church has the numerical equivalence of hundreds and hundreds of small Wesleyan churches. So while the small church outnumbers large churches in buildings, it does not outnumber the people in larger churches or the influence.
Churches of all sizes are notorious for their antics from time to time. A large, seemingly fruitful church can undergo a split and its pieces disintegrate. This can especially be the case when a church is built around a particular charismatic personality.
But smaller churches have their splits too. In a small church a strong individual can wreak untold havoc. A person with a key decides to paint the inside of the church without telling anyone. Another person leaves because the pastor took down the attendance billboard in the back by the door. Small churches can also be islands of legalism, where visitors who do not dress correctly are snubbed.
A church of any size can get distracted from the bottom line of Christians being in the world: love God and love each other. In church, we love God in worship. We love each other inside the walls by getting along. We love those outside the walls by mission. That’s really all there is. The rest is distraction.
God doesn’t care what the music is, who plays the piano, or who sings the special song. If the worshipers are worshiping, that’s good enough for God. It’s not an excuse to fight with each other. Worship wars show that Satan has gotten the best of us by distracting us.
We can get caught up in fighting political issues from the pew and pulpit. Sometimes this is also a hard heart disguised as faith. Are you preaching love of one another in the church and love toward both friend and enemy outside the church? If not, you’ve gotten distracted. The prophetic message is primarily a message for others, not against them. So who is your message protecting or wanting to rescue–or is it just an excuse to excoriate sinners because you think it is allowed in this case?
The thought occurred to me, What would happen to the small churches of America if they focused on loving each other inside and outside their walls? What if, whenever someone felt like fighting over anything, you returned to the theme–anything but love is a distraction?
I don’t like that style of music. Distraction. I don’t like the way that family dresses. Distraction. Those kids are disruptive and should not be allowed to come back. Distraction. We need to contact our politicians. Probably a distraction.
Might it not transform the church? Might it not transform America? A friend of mine said here’s what would happen: they wouldn’t remain small churches for long.