Jim Powell began his ministry leading a church of 50 people, which isn't bad if you consider the fact that the town only had a population of 100. Today Powell pastors Richwoods Christian Church, a multisite congregation in Peoria, Illinois. But he's never lost his passion for small churches. Powell founded the 95 Network, which aims to equip the 95 percent of churches in the United States with fewer than 800 members. Recently, Powell stopped by the offices of Leadership Journal. Over deep dish pizza we talked about his desire to equip small church pastors and why he believes healthy doesn't always mean bigger.
It's a little odd to see someone who's leading a large church, champion small churches. What's behind that passion?
It comes from my background of leading a small church and then coming to a church of 65 people. I spent six-and-a-half hard years before breaking the 300-person barrier. I wouldn't go back and do that again unless God spoke to me in an audible voice. It's much easier to take a church from 500 to 1,500 than it is to take a church from 65 to 400. And because I'm not an outlier and I didn't blow through it in one year, there's a greater sense of compassion and burden for those churches. The struggle that I have, though, is that as our church has grown, I find I'm losing my voice in some ways to small churches. But the people you pour into know your heart. They continue to listen and are seeing good things happen.
What are some metrics of health for a church, beyond numerical growth?
When I talk to pastors, I ask, "Do you know what you're called to do?" If you can define your calling and you have wrestled with the Lord—not just come up with a vision statement that you got after reading a book—and ...