Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve had the privilege of ministering to dozens of pastors in other churches. Many of these times were in person. Others were virtual. I’ve been in large and small churches. I’ve been to big cities and small towns with only one stop light (or none at all).
In the process, I’ve learned a few things about pastors and churches.
Recently I spent back-to-back weeks in small cities dealing with, by some standards, smaller churches. They were shy about sharing their success.
I led a leadership retreat for a church with 150 leaders in the room. I was amazed they could attract a crowd of that size in a small city. But talking to the pastor, it was as if they had no success at all — at least when compared to my perceived “success.” (I’ve realized, too, that if you have a decently read blog and you’re from out of town, people credit you with more success than you deserve. I’m sometimes seen as the “expert.” If only they knew, right?)
It wasn’t humility on this pastor’s part. I’m not saying he wasn’t a humble person, but I don’t think that was keeping him from talking about the good things God was doing through his church. It was more. I think it almost always is.
That’s when I remembered something I’ve observed numerous times, but never put into words:
Sometimes they don’t know how well they are doing.
Take my good friend, Artie Davis, as an example. His church is mega impacting Orangeburg, S.C. I would love to see the church I pastor have half the influence in the community where I live. Artie also leads The Sticks Network of churches ministering in small towns. The impact of those churches is amazing every year when I attend their conference.
Many times, the small city pastors compare themselves to the big city churches. They compare numbers rather than progress. They compare size rather than context. They compare notoriety rather than influence.
And, because of that, many times they don’t know how well they are really doing.
I see the connections, networking, and influence the small town pastor has, and I wish I could have that kind of Kingdom influence in my city. I see the respect they command in their community and know, in my context, they are miles ahead of me.
Small town pastor: God is using you. You are making a Kingdom difference. You just don’t know how well you are doing.