Recently an article resurfaced on my Facebook feed thanks to someone sharing it. It was an article from 2018 published on christianitytoday.com website. I might have read it back then, but I was not sure so I took another look.
The article was titled “When People Leave: The Private Pain of the Small Church Pastor.” The writer does a good job at making it known that pastors are people and we do experience pain. As a pastor of a small church I can relate to some of the things that were written there.
However, the article did disappoint me. Perhaps it is a reflection of so-called “Christianity today” to say a lot and not have any Scripture references to back up what is being said. Not one. In 2 Timothy 4:2, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to Timothy and tell him to “Preach the word…” By extension that goes to all of us.
When I read an article from anyone claiming to be Christian, whether it is on a blog, website, or any of the many magazines and church papers that come across my desk, I want to read Scripture and I want it to be rightly divided Scripture. Remember the Bereans of Acts 17? The Holy Spirit tells us “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11).
None of us are to be stoic in our Christian life. We are emotional creatures, but as the people of God we must be grounded in the Word of God. The Bible tells us that. Probably one of the most emotional things we will ever go through is the death of a loved one. During such times I am reminded of God’s Word in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Notice the passage does not say sorrow is wrong, but we are told to not sorrow like those who have no hope. Emotion outside of the Scriptures is wrong. Every time.
So, yes, please tell the truth about the pain when people leave, but then encourage me in the Scriptures. Here are a few things I thought of as I read the article:
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:16-17)
Jesus led a small church during His earthly ministry. By the time of the Great Commission, there were “only” 11 and some of them doubted! hi
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Jesus is still interested in small churches. Just because the big church down the road is meeting at the same time you are does not mean He is so busy with them that He doesn’t notice you! Be encouraged, small churches and small church pastors! You might be little now and maybe some did leave, but that’s ok. As long as you keep on in the Word of God, He will bless. Did not our God often do much with a small number? Noah got on the ark with “just his family” and God preserved the whole of the human race in that boat. A serious New Testament study will reveal that there were churches small enough to meet in houses. Why should we think it any different today? ( See Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2).
“…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47)
We sometimes need to be reminded it is the Lord who adds to the church. It was never about Peter or Paul, nor is it about David Green or any other of the faithful men who pastor a church. It’s the Lord that adds to the church, and how thankful we should be for that!
“For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (1 Corinthians 3:4-7)
The church at Corinth needed reminded about the Sovereignty of God in salvation and who each one of these preachers were. In the same fashion, we as preachers need to be reminded that it’s not all about us. When we think its all about us, we will either get arrogant or depressed. Yet when we realize we are called to be faithful and leave the numbers to God’s Divine plan, we will give God the glory whether there are two or two thousand on Wednesday night!
“….the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:22)
I believe we can learn from Job. He praised the Lord when he had a lot, and he continued when he didn’t have much. How is that possible? He recognized the hand of God in it all. Job had no idea of the conversation between Satan and God but still he knew God was in charge. He was in charge then and He is in charge now!
In Judges 7, we read how Gideon started out some 32,000 strong, but God cut his numbers all the way down to 300 before that important battle. God did not want the people to get too proud to think they had won a victory with their own might. And perhaps that is what happens sometimes. I often thank God for the small flock I pastor…were it a big flock we might miss some of the mighty workings of God. It was not too many years ago that the church here didn’t have enough money to heat the building properly, and after a few months of faithful meeting in one of the smaller rooms in the building, another church some 2000 miles away started sending us a bit of money every month to help with the expenses until we were able to “stand on our feet” again. And it was just a year ago we weren’t sure that the church was even going to be able to continue in the building we have. They weren’t able to give me my small salary. But then out of “nowhere” we got a donation from a church that had disbanded, plus a two couples joined the church which added to the tithe money coming in. Of course all this came from God. We could not say it was us. All we can do as a small church is stand in awe at the hand of God.
“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:66-69)
Dear small church pastor, realize that our Lord understands. You aren’t alone when people leave. Our Lord went through the same thing! Many of his disciples left. Oh, as a pastor you’ll see that some do leave. Being a pastor is not for the faint of heart, that is for sure!
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:34-38)
There is a cost to serving the Lord as a pastor. That’s the truth whether you pastor a small church or a large one. Friends will depart, even some family members. May God help us to say with Paul, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” (Philippians 3:7).
May God add the blessing to the preaching (and writing) of His Word!