Over 90 attended the recent North of England Church Officers’ Conference at Mirfield Evangelical Church, W. Yorkshire. John Benton, pastor of Chertsey Street Baptist Church, Guildford, led the robust attack on the problem of discouragement in small churches.
He spoke on Isaiah’s call. For us, like Isaiah, it is the vision of Christ that lifts us up – his holiness, his fear, his grace, his call, his glory. He is on the throne!
Scripture condemns no church for being small. We must expect trouble in a fallen world and Satan will take advantage of a despondent temperament. We must know ourselves and be alert.
Discouragement has serious results. It can lead to clinical depression and even to adultery. If people see that the preacher is despondent they will become despondent themselves.
But we can pray for one another. Great things in small churches glorify the Saviour. A small church can have quality presence in the area, conveying the love of God to the community.
It can offer a quality welcome, quality hospitality and quality teaching that majors on the glory of Christ.
It has the gospel – which cannot be found at the supermarket, the petrol station or the doctor’s surgery.
The theme of what small churches can do ran through later sessions – a new church established at Leyburn in Wensleydale; a new minister at Reeth; work among Muslims.
It is a blessing to cast yourself on the Lord in a small situation. A small church produced a leaflet containing the testimonies of three members and paid Royal Mail to distribute it to 11,000 homes.
Another used ‘Christianity Explored’ (which can be done at different levels); another replaced an afternoon meeting to which no outsiders came with a Lunch Club for 25, of whom 14 are outsiders.
Variety and willingness to change was the keynote of a seminar on persevering in evangelism. Theft of ideas from other churches was encouraged. We don’t have to be original!
Holiday Bible Clubs, preaching rallies, church holidays, an evangelistic breakfast for men, joint prayer meetings, and training for preaching – these were just a few of the things mentioned.
A thought-provoking seminar – compulsory for ministers! – dealt with the need for balance between home, work and church.
There was realism about what small churches can tackle. They can do some things better – all the members know one another and can bear one another’s burdens.
A high proportion of members can be involved in the work. It was even suggested that we should pray for the poor disadvantaged large churches!
Speaking on Daniel 3, George Mills from Doncaster Evangelical Church said that Satan would often have us in the fiery furnace, but there is one – the Lord Jesus himself – who is always there with us.
With our calling comes hurt. But part of the calling is to make us better people through the trials. If God is with us, who can be against us!