What unites large, small, bi-vocational churches
As we think of the terms bi-vocational or small church, what pops into our minds?
Often we think of the picturesque church building surround by a cemetery on some dirt or gravel road in the middle of nowhere. We may even think of the pastor as being a person who works as a farmer, teacher, factory worker, or some type of shopkeeper.
The reality of bi-vocational and small churches is that they are everywhere. They are in the cities, towns, villages and open country. While some are pastored by the farmer, teacher, factory worker, or shopkeeper, they may also be medical doctors, lawyers, business owners, college professors, or other types of professional men.
What is the difference between the large and small church, or is there any difference at all except more people? Because of a church’s greater or lesser membership, does this mean that she is more or less the Bride of Christ? There are some things that are basic to any church regardless of size; some positives and some negatives between our larger and smaller membership churches.
First, what is it that all churches have in common? Well, they have the same Bridegroom and the same Head in the person of Jesus Christ. Remember the words that the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, “… just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish”(Eph. 5:25-27). Many who read this article will have been married for decades. My wife, Judy, and I are in our fourth decade of marriage. She is more beautiful to me this day than that March day in 1967 when we said our “I dos.” To Jesus, His Church, regardless of size, is more beautiful today to Him than she was yesterday because of His grace, mercy and love.
Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. Ephesians 5:23 says, “… Christ is head of the church.” So what are our thoughts when we talk about “Christ being the head of the church?” When I entertain that thought, I think of someone in authority; someone who has the right and privilege to make decisions; someone who has the ultimate authority; where the buck starts and stops. Again Scripture does not share any limitations on the number in a church, but that Christ is the Head. I remember a friend telling me about a pastor’s ordination service and during the interrogation someone asked him: “Who is head of the Church?” Everyone was sitting there with smiles on their faces anticipating the answer that has been given by millions the Savior has called to pastoral ministry. However, the one being ordained answered, “The wife of the chairman of the deacons.” While he said this in jest, it goes to a point that we sometimes forget who the head of the church is. We vote and agree in response to what our Savior the head is telling us to do.
Being the church, being a great church is not dependent on numbers or dollars, but being obedient to Jesus Christ. Obedience is the requirement whether a church has a few or many members.
Churches, whether they are large or small, must have the same purpose. That purpose is found in Luke 19:10 when Jesus says, “I came to seek and save that which was lost.” This is our business, seeking the lost and introducing them to Jesus so He might save them.
We have looked at some of the areas that all churches must have in common and now we will look at some of the areas that may be different.
One of the areas where we differ is the culture or environment in which we minister – the methodology of how we carry out Matthew 28:19-20 or Luke 19: 10. Some of us live in cities and our mindset and the way we do business in general is different. The pace of our life is much faster than our Christian brothers and sisters who live in rural settings. One is not better than the other, just different. We must guard against thinking that my way is the only method of doing something. There is only one way to eternal life, Jesus. But how we introduce Him to folks may be different in the country than in the city.
Another area of difference may be the style of worship. There is no right way as long as we come with a heart for worship and want to honor our Savior.
So, what – as big churches, middle size churches, small churches, one-person staffs or multiple-person staff – brings us together that ought to be stronger and greater than that which separates us? It is not about size, it is about obedience. (George Roach is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s ministerial services specialist.)