The Value of a Small Church

Landon DeCrastos: In an age when so many pastors spend much of their time looking for the next new thing, it seemed foreign to encounter a ministry that didn’t try to fix something that wasn’t broken simply to put more rumps in the seats. There was something intensely spiritual about the experience.

A disproportionally large number of people filed into a little Baptist church in rural Missouri, their average age could be described in one word; gray. Only a few children were present, but the group was primarily older folks.

We were in town to visit my wife’s grandmother. Grandma would not have let us leave town without going to church, even if we had great excuses to skip. Plus, she promised us that she was going to make her world-famous chili for lunch so that was incentive enough to humor her.

The church was small and the last time the décor was updated was sometime around the 1978 or whenever the good old days were defined by an unnecessary amount of wood paneling. Every square inch of the building needed an update, and the handheld microphones had those awful bright colored covers on the microphone heads that stood out like a sore thumb. All in all, it was a place that didn’t look inviting according to a young pastor’s standards, but everyone had a smile on their face, so I was going to keep my heart open.

I already had a bachelor’s degree in ministry and was about to start seminary. I was obviously an expert in all things pertaining to leadership and was already developing a critical eye and ear when visiting churches.

The music began and, as was expected, the song lineup consisted of both songs I had never heard of and ones that I remembered from my childhood. The older lady leading the music was not exactly gifted for the part, but her passion was obvious.

How would they minister to people without the newest methods, songs or decor? How can they minister to people who were advanced in age when every book I had read on church growth told me that the younger generation should be their laser focus? It obviously wasn’t the case here. They seemed to have a routine that many were comfortable with, and everything had a distinct rhythm.

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The pastor began to preach, and the content was great, but the delivery left a little to be desired. He wasn’t even in the middle of a catchy series. This pastor had been with this congregation for many years, and most people had gone to that church for a long time. There was a comfort there that could be felt with the shepherd of this flock.

As I looked around, one thing was apparent: These people were genuinely interested in what was happening in the worship service. They were responding to the sermon, singing the songs loudly and taking notes to better absorb the message for the day. Every family had a Bible that was nearly destroyed from use, and the children that were there seemed to pay attention. The bulletin recorded evidence that these people participated in missional activities in the community.

Could it be that the books I had read about ministry distracted me from a deeper truth? Is it possible that I was wrong about what church “should” look like?

Attending that little church made me feel a different about serving in ministry. In an age when so many pastors spend much of their time looking for the next new thing, it seemed foreign to encounter a ministry that didn’t try to fix something that wasn’t broken simply to put more rumps in the seats. The back of the platform was not painted black, the lights were not dim, there were no laser lights, and there were no fog machines; yet there was something intensely spiritual about this experience. People were lifting the name of Christ and learning how to love others more. They were simply worshiping.

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I have realized that a little Baptist church in a place that is not even on the map can be as intensely faithful as the exciting and innovative ministry down the road with much more to offer. Both experiences are valid and vital to kingdom building.

I pray that all Christians will fall in love with God like this small Baptist church. If we do, we will see a genuine revival happen throughout the world.

Landon DeCrastos is lead pastor of Lead Pastor Fishers Point Community Church in Fishers, Indiana.