As a young man growing up on a farm, I was well versed in the many uses of a screwdriver. Hammer, chisel, prybar, knife, electric current tester, shim, placeholder, you get the idea. On occasion, we even used it to drive a screw. The use and abuse of the screwdrivers often come about because they are so common. Any garage in America has one or more. Screwdrivers are cheap and easy to replace. You break a screwdriver? Big deal.
My fear is that our small churches are also being misused. According to a report from the Caskey Center of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, almost 85 percent of SBC churches have less than 250 in worship. 64% have less than 100. So the small church is the most common.
In this article from Facts and Trends magazine, Brad Thie, director of the Thriving Rural Communities Initiative at Duke Divinity School, says in the past, ministers often viewed rural ministry as either a dead end or a stepping-stone. “Rural ministry was a place you served time until you went somewhere more important,” he says. I’m glad to see the trend changing, but the misuse of small churches is still a problem.
I worked in a local gas station when we first moved to Jordan. One night I was working and a truck driver stopped in for a break. We started to chat and in the conversation, he recognized that I had an accent. He asked where I was from and I said, “North Carolina.” He asked, “What brings you here?” I replied that I was a pastor at Jordan Community Bible Church.
His exact words were, “How bad did you screw up to get sent here?” He viewed my community as a place of punishment! This upset me, but I politely told him that I chose Jordan.
Small churches being a used as stepping stones or punishments must stop.
Here is a list of ways that I have seen small churches misused.
- Stepping stone to bigger church
- Lab for testing theories
- Place of ease after retirement
- Place of discipline after messing up
- The domain of a controlling leader
- A hideout for bad leaders
- Shelters for preferences