NCourage and smallness
It's a little awkward to write a blog entry like this lest it be taken as a cry for affirmation from my own church members. That is not the intention. However, I will not refuse any encouragement directed my way. ;)
Tuesday morning, our church hosted a regular event that we call NCourage. It's specifically designed to encourage, uplift and affirm ministers, pastors and staff in our area. Being one of those myself, I know well the burden and difficulty of leading a group of people to voluntarily pursue a passionate love relationship with Christ. In order to do that, you must consistently model it. That means that we cannot lead in a direction where we ourselves are not going. It also means that spiritual leadership for some can become a barren, thankless task.
At NCourage, we give out free resources for those who come, and we invite a guest speaker to come and share in a way that will allow ministers to leave refreshed and renewed.
On Tuesday, we partnered with Rose Hill Freewill Baptist Church. They had invited pastor and author Rob Morgan to speak in revival services at their church, and their pastor, David Ponder, graciously agreed to share Rob with us. Our two churches split the cost of a case of Rob's book Red Sea Rules, and Journey folks provided breakfast food for the morning meeting.
It was truly encouraging. Rob did a wonderful job of sharing about the importance of infecting your people with confident joy. He spoke from 2 Samuel 18, where David actually infected his army with despair because of his inappropriate mourning for his son Absalom. Absalom had actually tried to usurp his kingdom!
Rob said, "The attitude of the leader affects everyone underneath him." He went on to urge the small gathering to find our satisfaction and joy in ministry from our walk with the Lord rather than our work for Him.
The Joy of Smallness
Speaking of small gatherings, the attendance issue is one that often plagues ministers. Unfortunately, we judge too quickly the impact or success of an event by numerical feedback. I don't know of anyone pastor who hates it when a room is packed. On the contrary, I admit the personal frustration of planning well for a ministry event only to succumb to disappoint at a poor showing.
Numbers are very poor way to judge influence and impact.
Kent Hughes has a book called Liberating Your Ministry from the Success Syndrome which should be a must-read for every minister. After reading it years ago, I resolved to never preach to a few people. I always prepare and preach as if there will be thousands present. Every gathering deserves your very best.
I heard the following illustration while I was on a mission trip to Canada with college students back in 2000. It reminds me of the importance of never letting the size of your ministry or event reflect on your influence.
In a far country lived a band of minstrels who traveled from town to town presenting music to make a living. Unfortunately, they had not been doing well. Times were hard; there was little money for common folk to come to hear the minstrels, even though their fee was small.
Attendance had been falling off, so early one morning the group met to discuss their plight.
'I see no reason for opening tonight,' one said. 'To make things even worse then they may have been, it is starting to snow. Who will venture out on a night like this?'
'I agree,' another disheartened singer said. 'Last night we performed for just a handful. Few will come tonight, why not give back their meager fees and cancel the concert? No one can expect us to go on when just a few are in the audience.'
A third minstrel joined in saying, 'How can anyone do his best for so few?' Then he turned to another sitting beside him and asked, 'What do you think?'
The man appealed to was older than the others. He looked straight at his troupe. 'I know you are discouraged. I am too. But we have a responsibility to those who might come. We will go on. And we will do the best job of which we are capable. It is not the fault of those who come that others do not. They should not be punished with less than the best we can give.'
Heartened by his words, the minstrels went ahead with their show. They never preformed better. When the show was over and the small audience gone, the old man called his troupe to him. In his hand was a note, handed to him by one in the audience just before the doors closed behind him.
'Listen to this, my friends!' Something electrifying in his tone of voice made them turn to him in anticipation.
Slowly the old man read: 'Thank you for a beautiful performance.' It was signed very simply -- your King.