Archive for September, 2016

We are all to be Missionaries

September 1, 2016 Leave a comment

What is a great church? For many Americans, great is synonymous with large, volume equals vitality quantity means quality. Whereas the average Protestant congregation is small, the average Protestant goes to a large church. Half of American Protestants are members of the largest 15 percent of churches. One church official put into words what many silently believe: “A small church can be defined as one in which the number of active members and the total annual budget are inadequate relative to organizational needs and expenses. It is a church struggling to pay its minister, heat its building, and find enough people to assume leadership responsibilities.”
But a counter-tradition is quietly emerging. As more churches grow to stadium proportions, small congregations are coming to see their small size as an asset for mission. Scripture is clear that there are many ways we are to “Go”. In Act 1:8 we read, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Just because we are small does not mean we are exempt from this directive.
It is not true that small churches don’t have the resources to do effective mission. As Carl Dudley writes, “When church size is measured by human relationships, the small church is the largest expression of the Christian faith,” And David Ray reminds us that “small churches are the norm, primarily because many, many people still find them to be the right size in which to love God and neighbor. And we are extraordinary at relationships when we get people here!
But a devastating lack of mission can afflict our church if members understand their mission as, “providing a church home to Baptists.” The church with little sense of ministry to the unchurched, the marginal, the poor, or to those who were not of northern European ancestry can’t grow the kingdom. When I arrived in 2014 the congregation averaged 29 members in worship. Currently, our average attendance is 35 and while this is still a small number, we are heading in the right direction. However, to survive, we needed to become an active presence in our community.
The small church tends to be shaped more by the dynamics of its own small Christian community than by the dominant culture. While this can separate some churches too much from society, it can also assist the small church in getting involved where the opportunity for mission knocks. A small church can go places and risk ministries that larger churches would find undesirable or impossible.
On “the hill” there are several groups that mirror our congregation. We need to find ‘missionaries’ that will join these groups and represent us. Just three that come to mind are the Peninsula Seniors, Peninsula Vets and the Peninsula Breakfast Club. I have been guest speaker at all three and they are wonderful welcoming people. We also have an opportunity for someone to join and attend the meetings of the Palos Verdes Horseman’s Association so that we can become better known within the equestrian community that passes by our church every day! These groups have regular monthly meetings and a range of other activities.
Because we are “sent,” we need to be a missional community, not a church focused on our own survival. Because we are a community, not a collection of individuals, we work to promote fellowship. We explore together what it means to be disciples, followers of Jesus, the people of God. As apostles, we are sent and equipped to do God’s mission, and our commitment is to a ministry of love. We have an opportunity for those who will step up. There is a newly opened assisted living facility Sunrise at Palos Verdes, nearby on Hawthorne that is in need of “chaplaincy” that is, someone or some group that will find time to provide regular church-like services or bible study. Is that you? Could you spare an hour or so on a weekly basis?
Barring a miracle, FBCPV will never become a leading congregation numerically or financially. Having 50-100 in worship may be as far as it can go in numerical growth. We will always be a neighborhood church increasingly surrounded by larger and larger congregations. That is the trend. Warm, inviting, biblically sound ministry will almost always be small groups or small Christian churches like First Baptist Church of Palos Verdes
Pastor Rich

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