Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Small Town Chuch

From time to time, I run into a pastor who feels isolated in a small community. The complaint runs along these lines: "If I was in a bigger place I'd have a better ministry."

Ah, but is a bigger place a better place?

Being in a small community myself, I've pondered this question and here's my conclusion:

God specializes in small communities! Don't believe me? Look at the Bible!

Bethlehem was a small place -- and it was selected to welcome the King of Kings.

Nazareth was a small place -- and this is the very place the Father selected for the growth, nurture and shaping of Jesus during his childhood.

Capernaum was a small place -- and it served as headquarters for Jesus' ministry.

Are you in a small place? Be glad and praise the Lord! He has chosen you to share in his own heritage.

Your Ministry Matters to God

Perhaps you feel like you are slogging away in the remote backwaters of obscurity and you're wondering if you're making a difference at all.

Well, I have some good news for you! Yes, You Are Making a World of Difference!

As long as you are obedient to the Lord, trusting Him with all your heart, and loving the people, then the difference making is automatic.

Does your work matter? Of Course It Matters!

God would never call you to something that didn't matter. Even if it didn't matter to any other soul on the face of this planet -- It matters to the Lord, and that's good enough to serve for a lifetime!

Jesus Christ gave his life-blood for you, and He calls you to give it all for him.

The "return on investment" may not be exactly what you had anticipated. You may not be as "successful" in the world's eyes as you had dreamed in earlier years. But, who cares about being successful in the world's eyes?

John Knox did not pray, "Give me success!" He prayed, "Give me Scotland, or I die!" That's the sacrificial attitude God honors.

Over-concern about success will lead you away from your calling. Do not fall into that trap! The ONLY thing that counts is the applause of Heaven -- and that comes to those who are faithful.

Someday, when you get to the end of your journey, you will stand before the King's Great Throne. On that day, He will not ask you about your Sunday morning average attendance. He will not discuss your church budget. He will not ask what you think about hymns vs praise choruses. He will not be concerned about the padding on the pews, the color of the carpet, or the paving of the parking lot.

Instead, he will ask, "Did you do your best to honor me? Were you faithful to your call?"

Then, He will smile warmly as the gate swings open. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Introduction

I'm Mark O. Wilson, the Senior Pastor of Hayward Wesleyan Church in northwestern Wisconsin.

Hayward, Wisconsin is a small town of about 2000 people, but is also a world class community, hosting large scale events such as the World Lumberjack Championships, the American Birkebeiner (North America's largest cross country ski race), and some of the best fishing in the U.S. The National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is in Hayward.

I have pastored this congregation since August of 1991, and it has been a wonderful adventure.

Our church has grown from 65 to 650 in worship attendance, and there are still many "unchurched fish" in the lake. As long as one person in our community does not know Jesus, then our outreach efforts are not complete.

Our aim is to reach lost people, build them into fully devoted and fully developing followers of Christ, and deploy them into the world to make a difference.

We want to touch the world from Hayward!

I've learned a lot about ministry in a small community, mostly from trial and error. God has placed a calling on my heart to encourage other pastors in small places.

My prayer is that "Revitalize Your Church" will be a source of hope, faith and joy to you as you serve the Lord.

Whatever your lot in life -- plant a garden!