A sparrow is a small, seemingly insignificant bird. “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent?” (Matthew 10:29) Consequently, especially in America, sparrows don’t command our respect. A couple of weeks ago, my wife & I went to a Titans football game, and before the game a bald eagle was released from the top of the stadium and it came swooping down to land on its trainer’s arm on the field. Our response was immediate–“THAT is a majestic bird!” we thought.
Imagine the same scene with a tiny sparrow. Had we experienced that sight, I’m sure we would have been thinking, “Lame!” Yet, Daniel Henderson, founder of the 6:4 Fellowship, makes the following assessment about the local church:
“We must remember that the eternal evaluation of any ministry will not be a question of the size a church achieved but the sort of ministry it embraced.”
God’s perspective is not our perspective. God’s definition of success often does not match ours. We often believe “bigger is better.” We tend to believe that the signpost for God’s blessing is found in increasing “budgets, bodies, and buildings.” While larger churches may be indicative of God’s blessing, size is not a guarantee of strength. See Paul’s counsel to Timothy, his young disciple:
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 2Timothy 2:20-21
The eternal evaluation (God’s perspective) of the greatness of any church is determined by the personal holiness of the members, not by their size. God is looking for people who are passionate about pursuing Him. The overflow of that pursuit will naturally produce righteousness, faith, love, and peace—the fruit of His Spirit.
The churches in Thessalonica and Smyrna were both most likely small churches numerically, but both churches were praised for being full of faith, love, obedience, and peace. Laodicea was most likely a large, wealthy church, but Jesus told them in Revelation that if they did not repent He would spit them out of His mouth.
The true sign of God’s blessing is found not in the AMOUNT of ministry that happens through a church but primarily in the QUALITY of ministry through the church. Regardless of the size (big or small), the main questions that need to be asked about a church’s health and effectiveness are:
- Is the Word of God being faithfully proclaimed?
- Is the Holy Spirit’s presence experienced on a regular basis in worship?
- Is the congregation praying, seeking to know and do God’s will for the church?
- Are believers warring against their own sin in such a way that they are useful to God?
- Are believers humbling themselves before one another, or insisting upon having their own way? (Are church members on “a power trip”?)
- Is the church seeking to influence and win people, not to their church, but to JESUS?
There are certainly more questions to be asked, but these six questions help establish guidelines for determining the QUALITY of ministry–irrespective of the “size.”