What we all want is vibrant renewal in our churches. Vibrancy, however, and success, growth, or other terms used to describe successful churches, can be co-opted into the “Emphasize Big” planners. “Emphasize small” refuses to establish “vision” statements, “mission” statements, or growth objectives because these focus on the big results rather than the individuals involved. “Emphasize small” is not a strategy for one’s own objectives. “Emphasize small” is a disposition toward ministry not a strategic plan to accomplish vibrancy.
The characteristics of “Emphasize Small” are varied according to the ministry God gives. “Emphasize Small” does not mean to vilify big events or activities. In fact, big events and activities can still occur. When big events and activities drive outreach and community, however, “Emphasize Small” is forgotten. “Emphasize Small” works on the small and responds to the big. Four areas highlight the “Emphasize Small” disposition:
- Avoid church selfishness. Community based small groups (a seemingly “Emphasize small” activity) often demonstrate an “Emphasize Big” mentality because church leadership motivates their founding instead of gospel centered members. Church selfishness means the church wants its members to use their small groups as a gateway to membership. I think this confuses the Gospel for members and new people small groups reach out to.
- Demand doctrinal education and preaching. Doctrinal education and preaching means people attending church will feel conviction, be challenged, and sometimes offended. “Emphasize Small” only works among people of conviction. They sense the Holy Spirit’s challenge and submit to Scripture instead of becoming offended. Doctrinal education and preaching compels individuals to accomplish the demands of God rather than the objectives of church.
- Encourage members to consider ways to reach their neighborhood and then provide backup support for their activities. The church organization has to take the place of following its members into Gospel activities rather than pushing its members into action.
- Use the church service and Sunday School for worshipping God. That seems to go without saying, but our revivalist mentality and seeker influenced perspective on preaching and music leads us to conclude we need a sprinkle of show business in every meeting. A group of people united by their devotion to correct doctrine, common mission, mutual love, and prayer will see God accomplish his mission in the Big.
Believers need to work on the Small and respond to the Big. Christmas is the story of God answering small prayers, doing subtle but marvelous work, and providing a Savior through the humblest of means. Yet, Christmas highlights the great irony of God’s big work among humanity. God emphasizes the small but accomplishes the big. Individuals had to follow God faithfully – in small obedience – while God accomplished his will sovereignly. What a mystery!
“Emphasize Small” is the key to vibrancy. “Emphasize Big” produces pride and squelches the Spirit.