Preaching Articles

Was yesterday a tough Sunday, pastor?


You did everything you know to do.

You prepared, prayed and studied all week long.

A couple days ahead of time, you got in touch with volunteers to remind them this was their Sunday to teach, sing, usher, and so on.

You arrived early, unlocked the doors, made sure everything was clean, and turned on the heat, lights and sound.

But at least one volunteer didn’t show up. No reason. Just didn’t.

You scrambled to find someone to cover for them. But that position stayed empty. Again.

Still, you battled through.

You’re the Pastor...

Church started with an embarrassingly small number of people in the room. It always starts that way. They’ll be here in a few minutes, you told yourself.

But by the time you got up to preach there were still more empty seats than full ones. Maybe more empty seats than usual. And your ‘usual’ isn’t so great to begin with.

Still, you preached your heart out. Then, after the service, you prayed for needs and you welcomed a church member back from a recent illness. You listened patiently to the same petty complaints you heard last week, promising to ‘look into it’ again. And you meant it all.

You pastored the church.

You also received sincere smiles and hugs. Someone headed home with their spiritual cup refilled – even if they forgot to thank you for it.

But today is Monday.

And Monday is hard.

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...But It’s Jesus’ Church

You’re not alone.

Jesus knows what happened and didn’t happen in church yesterday.

He knows who showed up and didn’t.

But, unlike the average small church pastor, Jesus didn’t wake up this morning* depressed about the size of your church. Or mine.

Because it’s his church, not yours. Not mine.

And, somehow, even though he cares more about the church than you or I ever could, he’s not depressed by it.

He also didn’t wake up this morning high-fiving the angels about the church down the street that broke attendance records yesterday.

God doesn’t take attendance.

But he did celebrate with the angels over everyone who came to salvation. In your church or another one.

And he delights in your continued faithfulness, just as he mourns with you in your struggle to cope with yet another tough weekend.

And he’ll be with you as you prepare to do it again this week.

Faithfully, prayerfully, even tearfully.

Jesus knows.

He’s using you and the congregation you pastor.

Because, no matter how you feel or what the numbers say, Christ rewards faithfulness.


Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors.

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Michael B

commented on Mar 6, 2017

This short article was so needed! I got up early yesterday, excited to go preach. I drove 35 miles one way and arrived to a smaller than normal crowd of less than 15. As time went by, my heart kept breaking and tears came to my eyes. Where are the people? What am I not doing or doing to keep the attendance from growing? I was heart-broken; torn; constantly questioning my calling. I had been here before but not this deep and I had been the pastor for over 5 years but we were losing the attendance battle! I put on my "happy" face and poured all I had into my song and sermon. Then, service ended and I drove home quiet. Maybe I need to give the church up? Maybe God is through with me? Maybe ?

Donald Mcmahon

commented on Mar 6, 2017

Michael B: hang in there. I've preached to that 15 myself. Years later and a different setting: over the last two months attendance is up and down from 45 to 99; crazy. Read all the articles; watch all the videos; doing the ministries; loving the people; faithful to the Word; connecting with other pastors. Doing all that I can do; but, Jesus said it was His Church and He will build it. Be faithful, love God. It may be time to give up this particular church; but, that does not mean God is through with you. He never is through with us. Watched a tremendous video by Paul Tripp this morning. Watch it. I promise you will be glad you did.

Regina Willingham

commented on Mar 7, 2017

Just wanted to thank you for this article. Just awakening to a feeling of discouragement over the hardship of getting a new Church launched. I keep hearing in my head theses words "when the excitement is over and the real work begins". That's exactly what happens. It's excitement in the beginning along with a lot of work. Then all the newness wears off and the work of being faithful,obedient, consistent and unwavering kicks in. You have to go when no one shows up or sometimes you leave asking yourself was I able to touch or reach one person. Thank you for this reminder. God is in charged and my responsibility continues to be lifting Him up and He will do the drawing. Once again thank you

Phil Canning

commented on Mar 7, 2017

Our conference is all about attendance numbers, new salvations, baptisms, membership, last year's revenue. As a pastor of one of the smallest churches in the conference I have stayed away from pastor's retreats because of the clear indications from "successful" pastors that I am a failing pastor in a failing church. I have had so many lectures on how to turn things around and have a library of suggested reading on "Church Growth" strategies. I have been the pastor of this small church for 17 years. I feel like I have grown up and old with them. Why do we measure success in terms of numbers and money? I am grateful for the privilege to have ministered to this small group.

Kris Langstaff

commented on Mar 7, 2017

Thanks. I needed that.

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