Summary: A sermon for Celebration of Small Church Ministry Sunday
Size Doesn’t Matter
This is the transcript of the ACTUAL radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland.
Canadians: Please divert your course 15 degrees the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees the North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH, I SAY AGAIN, THAT’S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER-MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.
Sometimes we aren’t as big or important as we think we are.
The PCUSA has 11,000 churches, and of these, 8,000 are considered small churches. By definition, a church that has an average worship attendance of 100 or fewer people is a small church. Small churches represent almost 73% of the churches in our denomination.
As we gather today we celebrate the ministry of small churches. And, as members of a small church, we’ve all met attendees of large churches who have the attitude of that aircraft carrier. Many people feel “bigger is better”. But as Rev. Susan Andrews, moderator of this year’s 215th General Assembly said, “Small churches are the heart of who we are.”
I, for one, feel blessed to be in a small church. I love the feel you get when you walk into our little church. I like the “family” atmosphere you often find in small churches. I know that many of you all are related but even so there is a sense of “family” in small churches. Small churches in small communities seem to have a different outlook on life. We don’t have so many members that we need to wear nametags to tell who we are and that’s good.
I like the curved pews and the double aisles leading to the chancel area. The acoustics are wonderful here in the sanctuary. Every window in this 111-year-old building is stained glass. Look at the outside and can you help but think of a Norman Rockwell painting? It’s a beautiful little country church.
A person used to Crown Point 1st, or 4th Pres. in Chicago might look down their noses at our “quaint” little church. Maybe we don’t have our own preschool, a separate room for each S.S. class, a state of the art sound system, weekday programs, a handbell choir and full orchestra, a large staff with an associate, a music minister, a certified Christian Education person, and a secretary. Maybe we don’t have 5,000 members. But to that I say, “So what? To God, our little church of 162 members and our ministry is just as important and just as valued as the ministry of that big church of 5,000 members.”
Church people have been described as transient. They will attend a church for a while but when that church fails to meet their needs they move on to another. There is no sense of commitment; no sense of loyalty. I know many of you are life-long members of Bethel Presbyterian Church. Are there any here that have been members longer than 50 years? Stand up, please. 60 years? 70 years?
We have people here today who have been faithful members for many years. We have others here today who have been members for as little as 2 years. And we have still others who aren’t members but are faithful attendees.
And for all of you I have some questions. Why are you here? Why do you come to this building? Why do you attend church? And by that I mean, why do you attend worship services?
Have you ever really thought about why you’re here on Sunday morning? Of the many things I learned in my Lay Pastor training, several stick in my mind. One I’d like to ask you is, “When we are gathered in this building for worship every Sunday, who is the audience?” (Solicit answers, but don’t give answer, yet).
Many people come to church on Sunday mornings in order to re-energize themselves. The worries and concerns of the other six days are put aside for one day in order to bring peace and serenity back into their lives. They need this time of worship to equip them for the week ahead.
Others come to be blessed by the worship experience. At church, in the worship experience, they can reconnect with their emotions and they feel better.