My constant mantra in ministry to keep me somewhat centered on Christ and not just the stuff we do is this: “It’s a both/and world.”
It’s analog. It’s digital.
It’s huge. It’s small.
It’s “attractional.” It’s “missional.”
There are simply places for both. In the world. In the church.
Yet, in American Christianity, we keep bumping into the same mistake. The cycle gets repeated… and more frequently. We keep equating “bigness” with “blessedness.” We can react too strongly and say, “Well, it’s the quality, not the quantity” and that’s just as bad.
The bigger issue is we think that something “big” is obviously “blessed,” so when the “big” seems to go a bit off track, we don’t want to seem “overly critical.” We think, “They must be doing something right. Look at how many people go there!”
American Pentecostals have paid an awful price over the years for falling into this equation and then watching major ministries collapse. When it happened in the 1980s, the thought was, “We can learn from this.”
And we didn’t.
Now, there are so many “huge” ministries, that it hardly makes a blip on the national media radar when someone “major” has a scandal of some sort. But that doesn’t lessen the impact of lives crushed, ministries torn up, and the setback of hearing an enemy laugh all over again.
We are letting “big” be equated with “blessed” all over again.
We are letting “big” and “attractional” be excuses for being just plain dumb in some of our actions when it doesn’t have to be that way. We can do better. We just don’t insist on it.
Bigness can be blessed. And in that bigness, allow the Spirit to bring humility and power. I think great examples of this in ministry are Brooklyn Tabernacle and Redeemer Presbyterian, both planted in New York City. They are big and influential to their areas of ministry. But they do things well. They teach well. They preach well. They minister to the city with effectiveness, beauty, and humility.
Smallness can be blessed. There are hundreds and thousands of churches in urban, suburban, and rural areas who faithfully minister the gospel and work to impact their areas of influence.
“Smallness” and “relational” also has pitfalls. We can get so “missional” we get overly involved in the social justice side and skip the gospel side of the equation.
It’s pride we must constantly keep an eye on in our lives and ministries.
So, when we fall into the pattern of simply thinking, “They must be right. Look how HUGE they are,” we need to understand there may be something else going on. If we have a hesitation in some area, we need to discern. We need to listen to the voice of the Spirit. We need to understand it may be a call to prayer on our own part. A prayer to ask the Lord to help a minister who is doing some “big” things and keep them in a place of humility and power and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
It is also a time for me, in a “small” place, to pray for my own life. To pray that I keep my own pride in check so I can keep seeing the Spirit open amazing doors and I have a chance to be a person of influence to people who generally give no regard for the church at all.
It’s a both/and world.
And we can walk in this world with power… AND humility.