By Perry Lassiter, semi-retired Pastor Ruston, La.
One summer my mother hijacked me to accompany her to a wedding at a small country church. I knew no one involved and, at the time, hated any kind of ceremony. However, knowing I would one day be performing weddings, I paid attention.
The bride came down the aisle radiant. Everyone seemed very happy. From somewhere came the thought, “Every wedding is the most important.”
Whether or not the Lord whispered in my ear, I don’t know, but I do know it stuck.
The thought of the importance of every wedding occurred to me again when Prince William and Kate Middleton were married in all the glory of a royal wedding.
I thought of the young couples I’ve married over the years. Some were in small sanctuaries with only a handful present; others in auditoriums crowded with friends and relatives. No matter the setting, each couple just as happy as the royal bride and groom.
Indeed, all events in small churches strike those involved as important and significant. And I had as much fun and received just as many blessings in smaller churches as I did at some larger ones.
My most recent pastorate was an interim at a country church that averaged about 25 in weekly attendance. However, 15 to 16 regularly showed up at the monthly business meeting. It was there we hammered out church plans and programs. With virtually no committees and no active deacons, the entire church “owned” the plans we came up with.
The church scheduled a Vacation Bible School with a Mexican theme. A fiesta was planned for the Saturday just prior to the start of VBS and a community- wide visitation was organized for the Saturday preceding the fiesta.
Ten people showed up and distributed flyers all over the community. More than 30 people showed up for the fiesta and VBS enrolled 50 children – twice the Sunday attendance!
The 50 children included a dozen preschoolers and another dozen teens. Each individual who participated – workers and children – was impacted significantly.
Many years ago on the state Baptist Executive Board, I was assigned to a Rural Church subcommittee. J. D. Scott was the program officer who worked with those churches and had tremendous respect from them.
We felt then that those smaller churches did not receive the recognition they deserved. Sometimes, pastors in smaller churches become discouraged. Some wonder if what they are doing really matters. Many communities are declining, and it becomes increasingly difficult to build membership and attendance.
Some leaders feel guilt because they have no baptisms or only have one or two a year. When one family moves from the area, it can take away five or ten per cent of the membership. Some pastors even think, “What’s the point?”
The point is that every church is important because every person in that church and community is important. Every wedding is the most important. Every funeral focuses grief on that family wherever they live. Every worship service unites people before God, and the Word of God is proclaimed in that part of the world.
Imagine that magnificent document we call Philippians being read out loud for the first time. That reading certainly was not done in an amphitheater or a magnificent church structure. Most likely it was to a small group of people, perhaps a dozen or so, perhaps no more than 20, seated in a courtyard of a house.
The Philippian jailer and his family would have been there. What an impact that letter made. And that new church blessed Paul as much or more than any we have a record of. And so can yours, whatever the size.
Each person deserves the best church. Each community deserves the Word, delivered from the pulpit, communicated person to person, and demonstrated in the lives of committed believers.
Each community deserves a fellowship that will journey with them as they come into the world or neighborhood, grow up, marry, and die. Everybody needs someone to care. And we are called to care.
So wherever you are, your church is the most important. Let’s make it the most important for everyone!