Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Small Church Mentality

ok... I'm digging in the archives... but I found this article I wrote for the Vineyard National Magazine in 1996 and thought I'd recycle it.

(John 4:35 NIV) Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.

This past summer I was seeking a fresh vision for our fellowship here in Northwest Arkansas. I had received a clear vision before I even took the church as Pastor but over time that picture had grown stale with lack of attention and any faith I had that it was going to come about had long since passed away. The church had dwindled in number to under 50 people and although the core families were still very committed there seemed to be a current of unrest. I was even questioning my own call to the ministry.

As I sought after this new vision I sensed the Spirit saying, "I gave you vision already, you're the one who keeps trying to change it." I began to realize that I had programmed myself into 'small-church' thinking. By that I mean that I had fallen into the habit of answering nearly every new ministry opportunity with "we're not quite ready for that yet." I applied this to street ministry, food distribution, evangelistic functions, church planting, concerts in the park... almost anything outside of the safety of the church building or home groups. Logically I could justify this reluctance with issues such as finances or leadership but it usually could be boiled down to one thing... lack of faith. If God gave the vision and I know that its in His will then why would I not proceed? Because I don't really believe His word is true!

How long will it be before we are "ready" to do the works of Jesus? I felt like the Holy Spirit was encouraging me to pursue the vision as if it were fact. I was reminded just last month that Isaiah 54:1 exhorts the childless woman to "Sing... Shout for joy" before she ever conceives. If God tells me to plan for 100 converts then I need to figure out how to accommodate and disciple 100 people NOW! If He says we will feed 200 people a week then I need to be finding room to store and prepare food NOW! This was a true revelation to this young Pastor. I have begun to understand that we are in a partnership with God; the vision he gives is true to the extent that we have faith to act on it.

In the ensuing months our body has taken on things I would not have thought possible a year ago. We have been out in the community more in the last 6 months than ever before. Our food pantry has become very active feeding well over 100 people each month. As a result of the food ministry God has allowed us to begin a Spanish service which we hope to see evolve into a Hispanic Vineyard church plant. The church has also been conducting quarterly worship celebrations which have been well attended by other area churches and our worship team is currently in a studio recording their first worship album. During this period I have had two of the leaders in the church acknowledge the call of God on their life to church planting and we are currently seeking direction on this.

Even more wonderful than the enthusiastic activity, though, is that there has been a simultaneous call to prayer. Terry Teykl says that if you use the same Christmas tree stand each year but you keep getting bigger and bigger trees eventually your tree is going to fall over. You have to increase the size of the tree stand to where it will support the tree. We have discovered this to be true of prayer and ministry. As the various ministries have been released and have grown we have found ourselves driven more and more to prayer. Our ministry tree can't stand on the same old prayer stand we used to use. The foundation of prayer has got to grow with it. We now have people meeting for formal corporate prayer 5 times a week outside of regular church and kinship meetings. God is beginning to release a fresh anointing on the body. We have seen a great recovery with just under 100 people attending either Sunday services or kinships. The joy is back! We are learning to speak the "language of faith".

Duke Lancaster
Pastor, VCF Northwest Arkansas, Rogers, AR

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