Summary: A little church like ours can have a big impact if we trust the Savior, love the saints, and put our hope in the certainty of the Gospel.
As a church leader, I am often challenged by the question: If our church would cease to exist, how much would the community really miss us? In other words, What kind of contribution are we making to the Washington Island community?
Well, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania actually tried to measure what a church is worth to its community in purely financial terms. His name is Ram Cnaan. He considers himself nonreligious, but he discovered that on average, every year, one inner-city church contributed $476,663.24 to the local economy. This was according to a survey done in 2009.
Just last year (2011), his survey concluded that one church alone, First Baptist Church in Philadelphia, contributed over $6,000,000 a year to the local economy (more than ten times its annual budget). Based on Cnaan's research, some of First Baptist's financial contributions include:
Volunteer hours worked: $94,770 (weekly hours x 52 weeks x $20.25)
Reduced crime rate: a reduction of $64,416 (crimes within neighborhood compared with surrounding neighborhoods x $2,210)
Getting people off drugs and alcohol: $78,750 ($15,750 per person helped)
Building enhancements/Capital campaign: $60,000 (estimates that half of expenses are spent locally)
Helping people gain employment: $725,000 ($14,500 per arranged employment)
Suicide prevention: $58,800 ($19,600 per person saved through clergy intervention)
Divorces prevented: $22,500 ($900 per couple)
K-12 School: $3,489,926 (# of students x $9,666) (“Briefing: What's a Congregation Worth?” Christianity Today, April, 2011; www.PreachingToday.com)
Now, that’s fine for a big church in a big city like Philadelphia, but what about a small church like ours in a little community like Washington Island (population 600)? Can we have a significant impact in a place like this; and if so, How? How can a little church like ours make a big impact on its community? How can we be the kind of church that people will really appreciate not only here, but in places far away from here?
Well, the Apostle Paul was constantly grateful for a little church in a little town miles away from any of the important towns in the western part of what we know today as Turkey. In fact, it’s a church that Paul never visited, but he says in his letter to that church, “We always thank God… when we pray for you.”
That letter is our book of Colossians in the New Testament, and if you have your Bibles I invite you to turn with me to this little book written to a little church in a little community, the book of Colossians, chapter 1, Colossians, chapter 1, where we learn how we, like they, can have a big impact even here in a little place like this.
Colossians 1:1-8 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. (NIV)