There will always be small churches

There will always be small churches

Monday, July 19, 2021 3:15 pm

Temitope Ajayi

By Temitope Ajayi

The very idea that Pastors in some Christian denominations are employed to provide a service doesn’t quite sit well with me based on my understanding of the scriptures. Personally, i will not worship under a Pastor that is just doing a paid job. If a Pastor is merely hired to provide his service and not by calling with the unction of Holy Spirit how then are we sure whatever he tells his church members is from God.

It is my considered view that a church should grow in membership with corresponding righteousness. Holiness should be the core of Christian worship. There is strength in numbers. No sane person can argue against growth in numbers but it should never be the focus of a church that really wants to lead people to heaven. The way to heaven, the Bible says, is very narrow and only few people take it while the road to hell is very broad with large crowd.

The Bible also talks about mixed multitudes to underscore the fact that having a successful and spirit-filled church is not so much about numbers or the size of congregation. The Bible in Luke 12:32 has a very empowering message to small churches where members/Pastors of small churches are encouraged not to be afraid or discouraged because of their number. It reads, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”

On the Island of Patmos, through the revelation of Holy Spirit, Jesus instructed John to write a book which included letters to the seven churches. It is imperative for these seven churches to know where they stand before God so they would not live under the illusion that their worships are acceptable to God. Jesus who is always merciful did not want five of the seven churches to just carry on with noisy exhibitionism and obscene showiness while their deposit accounts in heaven are in red. Jesus through the letters sent the churches early warning so they could re-examine their ways and repent. The seven churches in Revelation 1:11 were in Ephesus, Syria, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Each of them had different standing, characteristics and rating before God.

The church in Ephesus had many great qualities which even earned them commendation from Jesus except for a major tragic flaw; a lack of love. The love referred to in the letter to the church at Ephesus has many scriptural interpretations. One is that the church, at the time, no longer had the zeal and vibrancy like when they first believed. Another way to look at the type of love John wrote about is the centrality of the gospel. “For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten son…” The message of salvation is about love. John 15:13 records, “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” While the Church in Ephesus ticked every box, it was marked down for lacking love. It is possible the church in Ephesus is a large one that cared so much about doctrines, structures, procedures, growth index etc that it became too legalistic about them, ignoring the core of the gospel which is love/salvation.

Jesus raised charges against five of the seven churches for one reason or the other. Only the church in Smyrna and Philadelphia were blameless. The Philadelphia church was described as a faithful church. The Smyrna church was a suffering church that endured persecution yet remained undaunted, fearless and faithful to the Master. There is high possibility the church in Smyrna and Philadelphia had small congregation. The church in Pergamos was a compromising church. The one in Thyatira was an adulterous church while that of Sardis had a strong reputation amongst men that it was alive yet to God, it was a dead church. The Thyatirian church probably ticked all the boxes on the Church Growth Index.

The Laodicean church was neither hot nor cold. It was described as a lukewarm church. By nature, human beings love indulgence and will readily embrace bad behaviour. With that in mind, it is much easier to say the 5 churches that Jesus raised charges against had large congregation with members bursting at the seams same way we now have it in many large churches where emphasis is only on earthly riches and pleasure.

In today’s world, there are a lot of factors that can determine church growth. Numerical strength and financial health of a church will also vary for many reasons. Certainly, churches in rural areas with less population cannot have big numbers in terms of membership and revenue. Those in low income areas cannot have same financial muscles like churches in areas with high income population. In the trending video, the sacked Pastor of Living Faith Church said he was leading a branch of the church at Ikere, my hometown. Ikere is a highly christianised and proselytised town. We can hardly find any person that does not belong to one Christian denomination or the other. All the new generation churches with their different brand of Pentecostalism are fully represented. I am not sure there is a street in Ikere without a church.

The question then arises if what we do as evangelism these days is actually about winning unbelievers into the Kingdom or one that is just about membership recruitment drive or poaching members from other churches. For me, church planting and growth should be one led by the Holy Spirit to bring sinners into knowledge of God through true worship and genuine repentance. It should never be about employing Pastors with monthly membership and revenue targets.

One thing is very sure, if a ministry and the Pastor in charge of a branch church are of the Lord, the work will stand. What the Living Faith saga has revealed, however, is the fact that, in many churches today, we have career Pastors and those that were actually called by God into ministry work. Career ‘pastors’ are those employed to provide a service and not ‘Called’ by God. Career pastors are not God-anointed ministers of the gospel. It should be said that those who were truly called by God cannot be sacked by man. Ultimately, I think Christian denominations must reconcile themselves with the fact that some of their branches will have large congregation and many will remain very small congregation. Every soul remains precious to God – whether in large or small churches.

* Temitope Ajayi is a public affairs analyst.

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