To the Members and Friends of St. John’s, Irmo:
Happy New Year! I pray that all of us will have a year full of joy, good health, and great relationships with our family and neighbor. I would imagine that each of us look forward to the new year with a positive attitude.
As some of you know, my passion for ministry has always been for small rural congregations. Among other specialized areas this ministry is one of those recognized by the TEEM (Theological Education for Emerging Ministries). While we may have to stretch the meaning of rural to make it apply to St. John’s, most of the members have had some kind of rural background (and still do to a large extent). The fact is, though, that we are small. And in my opinion, that’s good. The church started small. In fact, most of the churches dating back to the time of Paul and met in people’s homes. In many of the excavations of these homes, archeologists have given them the name “house churches”. One of those is located in Capernaum, and happens to be Peter’s residence, or at least his mother-in-law’s, (it was the one some folks cut a hole in the roof and let down the crippled man to let Jesus cure him). This house became a place of worship and the ruins indicate the house was expanded to accommodate the numbers worshipping there.
Over the last couple of years, I have become a real fan of Karl Vaters, who writes a blog called “New Small Church”. In one of his latest blogs, he writes, “Most churches in the world are small. Always have been. Always will be. As many as 90 percent of churches are under 200, and 80 percent are under 100. (In America it’s closer to 65% under 100 – still a huge number.) These stats are true in places where the church is in revival and where it is in decline. Whether healthy or sick, successful or failing, effective or anemic, most churches have been, are, and will be small congregations.”
Small churches have a real advantage over the “mega churches”! we are able to minister as (I believe) as Jesus intended. Small churches are not in the “business” to entertain, or even to perform to their audiences. We come to worship! While worship can take many forms, we come to pray, praise and be challenged by the words of scripture. We come to minister to those around us, our neighbors and family members. Worship, or church, goes on before and after worship, outside the doors of the sanctuary. That’s where we share what’s happening in our lives. We, the members of small churches are adaptable and can change how we go about doing things.
So I ask you to help spread the word of small churches, that we may worship with those around us, those who do not attend church on a regular basis. Those who are searching for spiritual direction. Those who feel they do not belong because they feel they are not “good enough.” None of us are good enough, but we accept God’s grace and love, for we are the hospital of sinners.
As always, I thank you for being the church, the small church!
See all of you in church Sunday!
In His Service,
John Derrick, Pastor