I led a dying man back to Jesus last week. And it would not have happened if I wasn’t a small church pastor.
Here’s the story.
He and his wife have been attending a nearby megachurch. She is a committed believer. He is not.
Whe he realized his illness was reaching a critical stage, he wanted to talk with a pastor about his spiritual condition.
They were told that the pastor of their church can’t meet with him. Instead, they were offered the help of the church’s extensive counseling services.
I don’t blame the church for that. In a church of thousands, the pastor is physically unable to meet with everyone in need. That’s why they delegate pastoral care to other capable people, so no one gets left out.
So their church didn’t turn them away. They offered loving, highly-qualified, readily-available help. That kind of system often provides greater pastoral care for more people than the small church model.
But it wasn’t for him.
He wanted a pastor, and nothing else would do.
Calling the Small Church Pastor
Before they were married, his wife had visited our church. So, when they couldn’t talk to their pastor, his wife called me and set up an appointment.
When we met, I heard about their story and his need. He had questions about God, sin, suffering and salvation.
After our conversation, we prayed together and he came back into a relationship with Jesus.
Used by Jesus
Could the story of a dying man re-dedicating his life to Christ have happened in a big church? Sure. They happen all the time.
But his story could not have happened in a big church. Because this specific person needed to talk with a pastor. And that meant a small church.
Not everyone in his condition needs a pastor. But he did.
When his wife called me, I could have sent them back to the counseling center at their megachurch, or I could have explained the priesthood of believers to them – that a pastor’s prayers have no special hotline to God. I have preached on that regularly.
But a dying man doesn’t want to debate theology. He wants help. And this dying man needed the help of a pastor.
This is not an argument that pastors need to do all the pastoral care. That is not wise or productive. I delegate a lot of tasks in our church, including prayer for the sick on many occasions.
But when a dying man needs a pastor, I’ll meet with him.
Because, as a small church pastor, I can.
Doing the Job We’re Called to Do
Some people in the church growth movement might argue that a person who needs access to the pastor (or a pastor who wants to be available when needed) is a hindrance to the growth of the church. Some who favor small churches might be angry at the megachurch pastor for not meeting with a dying man.
I don’t believe either of those things.
Neither the big church model or the small church model is always better. Or always worse. Each model has its values and drawbacks.
No one tool in a carpenter’s tool box is right for every job. Jesus, the divine carpenter, has many tools at his disposal.
Sometimes a big church is needed. Sometimes, only a small church will do.
Copyright © 2016 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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