The legendary NFL coach, Bill Parcels once said, “You are who your record says you are.” You might be coaching a very talented group of players, but if the team’s record says you have only won five games out of seventeen, then you have a non-playoff team. To be a playoff team, that group of talented players must win games. Only then can they dispel the “not very good” label.
A similar statement can be said about pastoring a church. Society, and many in the church world, base success on how many people attend on Sunday mornings. When studying the larger churches, we see they have children’s church with a director, teen ministries with a director, mission coordinators, and other staff members that help that church be successful.
Seeing these bigger churches do those things, we look at our small and rural local church. It oozes with potential, but we cannot help but notice all the missing pieces. We say to ourselves, “if only we could fill these missing pieces, then the puzzle to growing our church will come together.” Our missional focus becomes trying to recruit the missing puzzle pieces. But is this a healthy way to make disciples? Is our commission from Christ about filling in certain roles?
1 Samuel 13:20 So all Israel had to go down to the Philistines in order to get their plowshares, cutting instruments, axes, and sickles sharpened. (NET)
Saul and Jonathan were preparing to lead the Israelites into battle against the Philistines. There was one problem, Israel had no blacksmiths. This meant they had no one who could help them make weapons, the instruments of war. And if you are going to war, weapons are important.
What were Saul and Jonathan going to do? The two of them had swords, but how effective would they be with them if no one else had them? Were they just going to call up the Philistines and ask, “Could we get a timeout, please?” Their enemy was not concerned about them being armed; the Philistines were happy the Israelites did not have any. A takeover is always easier when the other side cannot fight back.
To their credit, Saul and Jonathan did not cry because they did not have weapons. They did not pout and stomp their feet because there were no blacksmiths or weapons. Nor did they pray and ask God to make it rain swords from the sky. Saul and Jonathan did not use this as an excuse to surrender to the Philistines. Instead, they took inventory.
The Israelites did not have swords or spears, but they had farming equipment. And to be honest, farmers were not trained used swords and spears. However, they had spent their entire lives using the plowshares, axes, sickles, and other cutting instruments. Saul and Jonathan had the farmers sharpen these for battle.
I know full praise bands are all the rage in the church world right now, but all you have is a pianist and a hymnbook. Stop crying about it. You may have kids running the aisles full of sugar, not the Spirit, and teens attending with no real engagement. You do not have a person to champion kids or teens. Stop crying about it. It would be nice if you had these people, but you do not. And these missing pieces do not diminish the potential that you see. This gap cannot consume the reality of where you are now. “You are who your record says you are.” Your church is not the mega church. And the truth is, God has never asked you to be.
Instead of lamenting and wasting energy on what your church lacks, ask, “what do we have?” Sure, you may only have farmers with plowshares, axes, sickles, and cutting instruments, but sharpen them! God has not sent you into a battle that cannot be won. He can win with the tools that you have.
How? Pray for God to show you how the people can be used within their own skillsets. Ask for wisdom to sharpen them for the mission. Then go to work viewing them as a strength instead of a hindrance. You may not see the tens or hundreds you are hoping, but it is better than lamenting over what is lacking and reaching no one. Your church can reach at least one person based on what God has already provided.
Jason and Nicole Barnett, Pastors of Greensburg Church of the Nazarene