It is said that there are creatures in the depths of the oceans that remain undiscovered to this day. Astronomers keep finding new stars and new planets each and every year that, for millennia, have been seen only by God. Every undiscovered animal, plant, and planet brings glory to God by the mere fact that He sees them, and He gets glory from their beauty even if He is the only one who knows that they exist.
In much the same way, despite the fact that there is much to be discouraged about when we look around at the situation in churches today, I do believe that there is, also, much to be encouraged about. I believe that God has men whom He has specifically placed around the world that bring Him glory every single Sunday, and no one other than their congregations know anything about them.
Last week I went on vacation with my family. And since we were on vacation on a Sunday, I looked for a church for us to attend. It wasn’t the easiest choice to make as zero churches came up on the TMS and 9 Marks church finder websites, but eventually, I settled on a church based on a Google search. We showed up right as it was starting. The first song began. As I walked into the room, there were about 40-50 people present. My expectations were not very high based on previous vacation experiments we had tried.
But the church blew me away. The people were friendly, the music was fantastic, the order of service was well organized, but most of all I was impressed with the pastor. He was so joyful. You could tell he was a gentle shepherd. He had been the pastor for only 16 months or so, and 16 months ago he began to preach through the book of Colossians. This Sunday it just so happened that I would get to witness his last sermon in the book. He had prepared very well. You could tell that the book had changed his life and deepened his love for Christ. He constantly talked about the major theme of Colossians as he reminded his people of various lessons they had learned over the 60 or so sermons, and–most of all–he was faithful to the text. At one point, he even got emotional over the thought that they were going to be done with the book and that this was the final message.
As I looked around, the people were engaged, they were listening, and seemed thankful for the message. And yet there were many open seats. As I thought about the service throughout the week, I kept thinking about the fact that God must be pleased with this man. Of course, I must say that I do not know him, nor do I know about the history of the church and problems they may currently have. But, regardless, I was incredibly encouraged to see a pastor of a small church (a mega-church compared to ones in Italy where I grew up, but small for America) who had obviously prepared very well for his sermon. He took his sweet time going through the book of Colossians making sure that he got as much out of the book as he could. He was preaching application in his message, very animated, and he obviously wanted the sermon to change the life of his people, all while having an incredibly encouraging smile. He spent time praising his church and praising the music team.
Let’s just say I was impressed. I’ve often heard Paul Washer and Steve Lawson say things like, “the best pastors in the world pastor small churches and no one has ever heard of them,” and I’m not sure I ever agreed with them until now.
Not too long ago, I sat in a service at the Shepherds conference. About 5000 pastors had gathered together to learn more about how to preach Christ. And an overwhelming thought took over my mind. I really don’t matter as much as I think I do. I’m just one of thousands of people in ministry working hard, going through trials, preaching through the Bible. And yet at the same time, whether people know who I am and how hard I work, or what my attitude is as I labor for the Lord, it doesn’t really matter, because my job isn’t to please man but, rather, it is to please the God of the universe.
We live in a day and age where we are told that church size matters. On my Facebook feed, more often than not, I have sponsored post telling me how I can reach more people in my community and how I can grow the size of my church. While we should always be evangelizing, and working on winning souls to Christ, we must remember that our attitude matters, as well. If we can be joyful in whatever ministry God has given us, really working hard on the depth of what we do, and leaving up to God the results, and leaving up to Him how vast our influence can be, I think that then and only then will God be pleased with us. We may figure out worldly ways to attract hundreds or even thousands of people to our church, but only when we are faithful to scripture and our attitude is right will God be pleased with us.
While we all want to complain about the state of the Church, and in many cases rightfully so, I think it’s helpful to remember, as God told Elijah so long ago, that there are many men around the country and around the world who faithfully shepherd their congregations, joyfully counsel them, diligently prepare and spend as many hours preparing for sermons that they will preach to a couple dozen people as others do to thousands, and please their Savior through their joyful attitude throughout. It took me a random Google search to be reminded of this, and I’m thankful for the experience last Sunday.
Thanks be to God for these faithful men who, despite cultural pressures, remain true to Scripture and faithful to Christ. If you attend a church like this, you are incredibly blessed, Thank God for His grace in your life, show thankfulness to your pastor, thank him for his great attitude and his joy in teaching the Word. Chances are he isn’t doing it for the money or for the fame, but he is doing it for your eternal good and for his Savior.