It is not the size of the church
FENTON, MI – Imagine getting on an airplane for vacation. The getaway you’ve been planning is finally here. You anxiously anticipate the time you will spend at your destination, but first, you have to get there. The plane is boarded. The doors are tightly shut and the fight crew is making final preparations for take off. As the fight attendant walks down the aisle, he smiles and reminds you to fasten your seat belt. You cautiously try to get both parts of the belt buckled without touching the passengers beside you. It’s a real challenge!
Your seat is small - too small. You realize that is not just the seat. Everything is small - the space above your head, the leg room, the luggage compartment, the aisle - small, small, small. You don’t even want to think about needing the bathroom! It redefines small. You scan the plane, and it looks like all 200 seats are taken. If you fly much, you know how real this scene is.
As you think about the plane, realize that the Sunday morning crowd in 85% of all Southern Baptist Churches could fit in this plane! Let me put it another way: The entire worshipping congregation in 42,500 of the 50,000 churches in the SBC could each fit on a 200 passenger capacity plane. Yes, we have some megachurches - churches that have an average attendance of 2,000 people or more. All the senior pastors of all these SBC churches could fit on the plane and it would only be 3/4 full. Big doesn’t mean healthy; neither does small. Healthy is healthy, and Michigan Baptists are working together to have healthy churches. (I’ll come back to this in a moment).
We are a convention of mostly smaller membership churches, and yet, the impact of our ministry is felt from our neighborhoods to the nations. I have been reminded over and over again that it is not the size of our churches, but the strength of our partnership in Christ that God uses to impact this world. We are a Convention of autonomous churches - churches of all sizes, ethnicities, and economic realities - that voluntarily partner together under the Lordship of Christ to send missionaries, train ministers, speak Biblical truth, minister to the hurting, and share Christ across our homeland and around the world.
The impact of our partnership was vividly demonstrated on a national level at the Southern Baptist Convention in June. Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife Sherri took the stage during the Send Luncheon. Tears filled my eyes as they shared the horrific events that happened November 5, 2017. As the FBC Sutherland Springs church family gathered for worship, a gunman ruthlessly started shooting into the church from outside the walls. It was the start of a rampage that left 26 people dead. The Pomeroy’s 14 year old daughter, Annabelle, was killed that tragic day.
Pastor Frank’s faith in Christ touched our hearts as he shared, "Though there was pain, evil didn't win.” “... I would hope that when people think of Sutherland Springs, they think of Christ. And if everything that happened and everything we do thereafter gets people to focus on Christ, then that's what it's all about.
Kevin Ezell, President of the North American Mission Board, said to Pomeroy, "I've had the privilege of watching you lead in a crisis that no other pastor in this room or North America has ever led through. You have been an incredible model of leading a church while at the same time walking through crisis personally” (Baptist Press, June 12th, 2018).
You may be interested to know that our SBC family, through the leadership of Kevin Ezell, paid for the 26 funerals of the Sutherland Springs tragedy. NAMB is also leading an effort to build a brand new church building for our brothers and sisters at FBC. It’s an incredible picture of what it means to be part of the family of God, and what can happen as we work together. This is only one picture, a beautiful picture, of what is happening because churches just like the one you attend partner to advance God’s kingdom.
I want to thank you for your partnership with the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, especially as we approach the Frances Brown Offering for State Missions. One of the ways we use this offering is to Strengthen Churches. A major focus of our Convention is Church Revitalization.
In a recent blog post, LifeWay President Thom Rainer, wrote that in North America there are “...300,000 or 85%, of all churches needing some level of revitalization, from modest to radical revitalization” (July 9, 2018). That number is staggering! It means we have unhealthy churches and a lot of them. It caught my attention. Some level of revitalization is necessary in 85% of churches: That’s big churches, small churches, and every church in-between.
The good news is that revitalization is possible. We have invited Richard Blackaby and Mark Clifton to lead us in our first Church Revitalization Conference. They will focus on the subject, “Revive, Reversing the trends, Reviving the Church.” The Conference will be held, September 22 at Eastgate Baptist Church in Burton from 9:00 to 3:30. This is an event for the whole church. Go to BSCM.org/flyers for more information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.