In Defense of the Small Church

in-defense-of-the-small-church

The book of Joshua records an incredible story about God’s people during a time in which the odds were against them. Joshua, who took over for Moses to bring people into the Promised Land, led the Hebrews to Jericho; a massively fortified city that was nearly indestructible. With a very low population of nervous people who believed God could do anything, they were able to make the walls of Jericho fall. Somehow, they won the battle. This didn’t happen because of their might, but because of God’s provision and protection.

In the book of Judges we find one of God’s anointed Judges, Gideon, who many would say lacked confidence and charisma, but still believed God was supremely powerful. God tells Gideon that the vast Midianite army will fall to a militia that Gideon is going to lead. Many scholars say that there were over 100,000 soldiers on the Midianite’s side, and through a series of events, God tells Gideon to send most of his troops home. He sends so many home, in fact, that Gideon is left with 300 people. This is certainly not enough to get the job done.

Fast forward: Gideon’s band of 300 easily destroys their foe.

In the book of Luke, Jesus sends out 72 of His followers to different towns for the purpose of sharing the Gospel. This relatively small group of people expend their energy and resources to make sure the good news of Jesus is spread throughout the land. These followers come back testifying of great victories and entire households being converted to faith in God. Once again, a miracle happens through faith and obedience.

In all of these cases, we see that a relatively small group of people were able to exercise their faith in God and He blessed them with disproportional abundance and victory.

There is an interesting trend that has arisen in Christian culture. Larger churches are attracting people by the hundreds and sometimes even thousands. These megachurches, in many cases, have filled a need for a community who has seen dwindling church participation over the years, and the greatest contribution they have given, in my opinion, is the participation in areas of ministry from people that were once estranged from the church.

Big churches are exciting. Many have great music, excellent preachers, and elaborate programs that keep people busy around the clock. There always seems to be something going on and people get energized when a new initiative or series is introduced.

In this context, it is easy to forget the vital importance of the small church.

The healthy small church provides a needed service to the community that larger churches cannot easily fill. In a lot of instances, Christians will see exciting things happening in a large church and their attraction to the excitement becomes intoxicating.

It’s hard to not be drawn in when these churches create an assembly line of spiritual cheerleaders who market the church every chance they get by their actions, logo wear, insider language, and testimonies of God’s work through the ministry. Big churches are great for the most part, but sometimes people do not see how the smaller church can possibly fit in the local community like a piece of the puzzle.

The healthy small church does great when it comes to getting people involved in ministry, corporate accountability, developing deep life-long relationships, and creating an atmosphere of extended family.

The common misconception is that a small church is the size it is due to failed leadership, or some catastrophic event that split the membership. In some cases this can be true, but in most cases it is not. From my experience as a pastor of a smaller church, I have noticed that there are instances in which people are getting involved in leadership in areas where they would not be able to plug into in a larger setting.

Often, for instance, in music ministry, the larger church looks for those gifted on a professional level. A small church looks for those willing and with the talent and call to participate. A person of average leadership abilities can become a leader in a small church for the purpose of sharpening their skills and growing into their call.

There are unhealthy small churches just like there are unhealthy large ones. As implied, the inverse is also true. Healthy large congregations are ones that are not interested in simply getting bigger, but multiply with purpose through smaller works.

Congregations of all sizes are needed. If you are not a part of a church, consider trying out a small church with passion and a heart for Jesus. You may need what it has to offer. With that said, don’t just look at your “church search” with a consumer mentality of what it can offer you, but truly pray about how you can get plugged into the kingdom of God and use your gifts to serve the world.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

How Renewal Happens

renewalOne of my fondest memories of college occured in late fall/ early winter of my sophomore year. This was my second year in our school’s traveling men’s choir, and we happened to be in the midst of a tour in Northern Indiana. This choir (Testament Men’s Choir) was one that traveled around the midwest singing in churches for ther worship services. We were used to singing in large venues and very small ones. No matter what the size, every one of us truly loved what we were doing, and felt God had called us to use the voices He gave us for the glory of the kingdom. Despite our love for what we were doing, sometimes it became a monotonous task to sing the same songs and go through the same routine. This tour turned out to be different…

In Northern Indiana, when we were inbetween performances, we decided to take an excursion to the local mall. Christmas marketing was in full swing and every square inch of the mall reflected this fact. Our song set for choir also reflected the season with the necessary songs to celebrate the birth of Christ. We had the songs memorized almost to boredom, and because of the frequency of how often we sang these tunes, many of us hummed them without even knowing it.

As we formed into clumps of people and scattered throughout the mall to do some shopping, God began to stir something in the hearts of most of the guys. As a few of us were walking around in one of the clothing stores we began to hum one of our tunes called, “In the First Light”. This musical infection started with a couple of the men who were really singing it to give into the fact that is was burrowing in their brain. Then, as the other members heard, they began to join in using their assigned harmonies.

We were not really paying attention to the people around us at first, and after a few lines, we looked up and the staff of this particular clothing store had stopped what they were doing to listen. Tears were coming down the cashier’s face and this started a conversation about what we were doing in town. The patrons and workers were excited that we were singers and wanted to hear more… This gave us an idea.

The small group split up to collect as many of the guys throughout the mall as possible. Our idea was to gather the full group and meet in front of this store to give the workers an impromptu show, and make them smile at the very least. Oddly enough, right outside this store was a piano that the mall often used to randomly entertain patrons with carols and such. We decided to highjack it for our purpose. We also were able to collect nearly every member of the choir for this show.

We began to sing. We had never been so into what we were singing and the harmony poured out like never before…As we sang, people from all over the mall gathered to listen. People were crying, many had their eyes closed in reflection, and some even had out their cell phones recording the event. We never thought anyone would notice, but it moved people unexpectedly. People were drawn to the event. We had a blast!

Here is the point…I think, as the Church, we get the wrong idea about how God moves. We think that we have to set the perfect mood, and make a pursuasive case for belief. What we often forget is that there is something terribly attractive about the concept of God’s people worshiping Him with passion. God will draw people to Him when His people praise. This is how renewal happens. A spark…then a fire.

Trust God today.

-Landon DeCrastos

The Weight of Worship

worshipI can’t tell you how blessed I have been as a pastor. My church is amazing, and everyone seems to really be mission-minded. The fact is like others; I take things for granted, and often end up being convicted by the Holy Spirit of such things. One example is the concept of our worship service at church. In our history, we have had worship leaders who led and who were beyond talented. Their ability to lead people to the throne was amazing and the music was professional quality.

As it stands today, we do not have an official main leader for our music. Since this became a reality, we have been filling in with extremely talented musicians from our congregation. A while back, someone had the idea of allowing our children to lead a worship service. “What?!?! Are you crazy?!?!”, I quietly thought. We were used to such great professional quality. This could possibly ruin what we are doing…I was afraid. We went ahead and allowed the children to lead that Sunday, and the Holy Spirit swept through the service like I have never seen before. In fact as I am writing this, I am trembling as a result of recounting the memory. Then, the first time our teens led…the same thing happened.

These services started a journey that all of us at our church are on together. Trust, believing and waiting for God to move have been actions we have learned more about in the process. God has been showing up in our services each week, and the quality has been great, but each week leading up to the service (behind the scenes) has had its struggles. Before, I took the music for granted because I never had to think about it…now; each Sunday is a process of labor that always goes well, and God is able to freely move. The music has always been great, but with the work that goes into it now; we are feeling the weight of worship. We are not perfect in everything, but God is revealing more truth about this as time goes by.

In the Old Testament, God had specific rules about how we are to handle the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark was the tangible symbol of God’s presence and if it was mishandled, then individuals would be cursed (or die). God thought worship was so important that it had to be protected and handled with reverence. Certainly, we all could use more thoughtfulness when approaching worship, but corporately as a church the buck stops with me.

The Holy Spirit has impressed on my heart that I was not feeling the full weight of worship like I should have been. I took everything for granted, and through this, I am growing into a new pastor. Never again will I take God’s presence for granted…

-Landon DeCrastos

The Key of Silence

I have a confession to make. I may be in the vast minority, but it is true that I do not listen to much music. Don’t get me wrong…if I were to listen to something on the radio or on an mp3 player, I would have certain preferences, but for the most part, I prefer not to listen to music. It’s not that I dislike the sound, or can’t appreciate the art, because the artistic expression is obvious. People spend a lot of time, energy, and money honing their craft for the purpose of entertaining and expressing their deepest emotions through the vehicle of music. I appreciate that fact. I just don’t find much joy in listening to music for long periods of time.

I want to make it known that I believe God created music for our pleasure and also as a mechanism for worship of Him. It can give us such joy and it also pleases Him if we use it to serve.

In today’s culture, music has become the most popular way people have chosen to interpret what they are feeling. For some, it has also become an unhealthy distraction to a life that needs certain issues addressed. People will describe their anguish or love through lyrics that bring them to tears.

When walking down the street in the middle of a crowded city, it would be difficult not to pass someone wearing a shirt representing a band, listening to their favorite songs, or even playing an instrument for extra cash.

The problem with music is the way it has been misused in our culture. People seem to be genuinely afraid of silence. This could be that the thoughts that they would be alone with are ones they do not want to confront. No matter the reason, silence makes us uncomfortable.

Today, take some time to be silent. Don’t read. Don’t speak. Don’t listen to music. Just be alone and silent. Ask God to whisper to you during this time. You will be amazed what can come from being uncomfortable and deliberate.

-Landon DeCrastos