Often I find it's the little things in life that make a big difference. A soft word, a gentle touch, a kind expression, a smile—all are little things that can change a heart. And yet so often it is the big things that impress me most.
I don’t understand why I find myself enticed by the big things when the little things have such a big impact on my life. After all, isn’t the intricacy of a delicate rose as impressive as the might of a mountain range? Doesn’t God care as much about the little ones as he does about the great and powerful? Wasn’t it Jesus who was constantly reminding his followers that the least would be the greatest and the first would be last?
In God’s kingdom, things are different—very different.
So why is it that when it comes to the church, the body of Christ, we often measure success by numbers? How often does someone ask about the size of your church? They don’t ask about the preaching or teaching. They skip questions about fellowship and prayer. They don’t inquire about the work of the Holy Spirit. Bigger, they imply, is always better.
God loves variety and diversity. Each tree, each animal, each rock formation, each person, and even each church is unique. No two are alike. Certainly they have similar characteristics. Acts 2 describes many common traits of a vibrant, love-filled, Spirit-led church. The old expression “We know it when we see it” certainly applies to healthy churches.
And yet size is not on the Acts 2 list. Growing is, but size is not. Somehow we have begun to use size as the criterion by which we judge church health. Study after study has demonstrated that size does not correlate with health. There are healthy small churches and healthy large churches.
The Christian Reformed Church is no different. We have larger churches and smaller churches. Both can be vibrant, alive, healthy places.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with elders and pastors from smaller churches across the CRC. I found many to be discouraged, some even disheartened. Because their churches were not large, some felt marginalized or unimportant.
And yet, as I listened, I heard stories of transformed lives. Stories of young people who gave up summer vacations, spring breaks, and Christmas with their families to serve others whose lives had been devastated by storms and floods. Stories of community children flocking to weeknight programs. Stories of God at work.
As I listened, I began to appreciate that these smaller churches scattered across North America are God’s agents of transformation. There is power in small things. While Jesus fed 5,000 people, he gathered only 12 around himself. While 3,000 souls came to Christ on Pentecost, the groups in which they gathered were small enough to meet in people’s homes.
It is the little things that matter. Paul reminds us (1Cor. 1:26) that God uses the foolish, the weak, and the despised things of this world to accomplish his purpose. While we count heads, God measures the heart. Our health and strength is found not in our size or power, it is found in him.
I thank God for our smaller churches. I praise him for using them in his kingdom, and I pray we will all remember that we live only in God’s strength and power.
About the Author
Jerry Dykstra served as the executive director of the Christian
Reformed Church in North America from 2006-2011.