Mrs. Hunter is a member of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church, Houston, Texas. *Placement of this unsolicited article does not necessarily indicate agreement with the author’s view of the “small congregation.” Others may think differently. The Standard Bearer is open to their views as well. -Ed.
For who hath despised the day of small things?
The above verse was the theme for family visitation.
A very serious and concerned pastor and elder asked, “Does it bother you that we are so small?” Almost taken aback, we responded, “Should it?” Upon further consideration certain conclusions were reached.
In larger congregations, needs are met in every respect. There is the consistent, pure preaching of God’s Word – preaching that edifies, admonishes, comforts, and exhorts. In time of need, trial, and affliction, the communion of the saints and the care and concern of the consistory are experienced. Fellowship with other members of the congregation is enjoyed. Provision is made for covenant education of covenant children. These same covenant children are properly catechized until, to the thankful joy of parents, these children make confession of their faith.
All of these things are also true in the smaller congregation. However, in the smaller congregation every member knows that in a very real way and in many practical ways he is needed. Being really needed in the service of Christ’s church is a blessing that defies description.
Every member’s physical, presence is needed. Every talent every member possesses is put to use, and talents some couldn’t believe they had are brought into use also.
Precious is the unity and cohesiveness of the small body of saints!
Every member enjoys the after sermon handshake of the pastor. The opportunity to discuss the sermon immediately is right there.
Every member greets every other member before and after the service by name and with obvious joy.
Except for illness or out-of-town absence, every member is present at every service or activity, weekday or Sabbath. The absence of any member from any function never goes unnoticed by pastor, consistory, or other members of the congregation. Surely the small congregation understands being one’s brother’s keeper, and knows that there are friends who are closer than brothers. The need of every member, whatever it may be, becomes the need and concern of all members.
Church visitation is usually considered the business of the consistory. In the small congregation it becomes an opportunity for all the members to greet and have fellowship with the church visitors – a .meal with guests from the congregation in one home, a bed and breakfast in another, coffee after or before the meeting in a third, a trip from the airport with another family, and to the airport with yet another. So all meet with the visitors.
Visitors in a small congregation for one Sabbath or a stay in the area for a longer time (a week or two or maybe a month or more) find a very special welcome. Hospitality to the saints who are strangers in the midst takes on a special meaning. A small congregation can accommodate for Sunday dinner as many families as there are member families (or more), and as quickly organize an after-service supper Sunday evening for special fellowship.
Should all of these special blessings and joys cause a congregation to strive to be small and stay small? Absolutely not! It is ever the mandate of every congregation to seek to shed the light of the Gospel through the preaching, through the life and witnessing of its members, and through the exercising of whatever opportunities for evangelism present themselves. The command is always there to be active in gathering Christ’s church according to His counsel.
However, if in the Providence of God a congregation finds itself small, and also in His Providence remains so, despise it not! God maintains His church in some locations small, in other locations larger. In all these situations our God is Sovereign, and He controls.
“Fear not little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
If for any reason (vacation, business, or emergency) you find yourself traveling, locate the smaller churches. If at all possible plan your route to include a visit to the small congregations and share the blessings afforded there.