Today, I thank God every day that he stepped in and did not allow the church to keep getting bigger. If it had, I might not have noticed my own increasingly toxic emotional and spiritual state until I found myself burnt out or worse. I might have ended up being one of the pastors you know about for all the wrong reasons, the one who sabotaged his life, family, and ministry over a moral failing that leaves people shaking their heads and wondering “why?”
Now, when I hear of the “fall” of an otherwise gifted and sincere pastor, I have nothing but sympathy. If the church had kept going the way I wanted, that could have been me. Instead, for reasons I will never understand, but will always be grateful for, God spared me, my church, and my family from that grief by using those collapsing attendance numbers to stop my spiritual and emotional downward slide, wake me up, and force me to find another way to do pastoral ministry.
Digging For Small Church Truffles
It was during that healing season that I began to explore the foreign, almost exotic idea that maybe, just maybe, there’s a way for a church to be healthy and small. But I had to dig for that truth myself.
At first, the search for a different model of church health was exhilarating. I discovered so many ways that small churches can be strong, missional, and vibrant! Then I got frustrated. As I scrambled for morsels of truth about healthy small churches, I felt like a pig digging for truffles. The treasure was great when I found it, but the search was often unpleasant, to say the least.
If so many churches are even smaller than the small church I was pastoring, why did I have to search so hard to find them? Why weren’t these principles front-and-center in every seminary, church leadership conference, and book?
Then I got mad. After one particular “aha” discovery, I found myself yelling at an empty room, “Why didn’t anyone tell me this?!”
That’s when I had to reassure myself, “No one is hiding anything from you.” That’s just how truffles grow. . .in the dirt and waiting to be discovered and shared. That’s what makes them so valuable.
No one is hiding small church essentials from anyone. They just can be hard to find.
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