Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
The New York Football Giants are undefeated. Granted, it is only one game. But nevertheless—after over five and half years of not being a single game over .500—my favorite football team finally has a winning record. Long-suffering Big Blue fans have to enjoy this while it lasts!
What I appreciated most about the news stories in the aftermath of their first win of the season, were the pictures and the videos that showed the camaraderie and unity in the locker room. As they relished in the shocking victory, they were cheering and dancing together. Players and coaches together were bouncing around with enthusiasm and exhilaration. They were excited and having fun. They were celebrating together. They won and it felt so good. After the debacle of a putrid last season, and a decade-long embarrassing swoon, this team is starting to set itself up for success. They are starting to build a winning culture. (I hope!)
As we enter the fall season and begin our churchwide Red Letter Challenge, my hope and prayer is that we will see everyone in our church come together likewise. That we will start dreaming big about how bright our future will be. That we will look to our coach, Jesus Himself, and embrace His mission-minded, winning culture. One of our members recently shared with me the worship numbers from when King of Kings started, when two churches (Parsippany and Boonton) merged together 65 years ago. Can you believe they were worshiping close to 275 each Sunday? Wow! How awesome is that! But these “glory days” are not just behind us, they can be our future as well. Much like any football team, you need everyone to be present and everyone to buy in. It is time to be excited about getting together. It is time to be a church that is proud of who we are and what we believe. It is time for us to start singing and dancing in the locker room. To be a place where people are excited to come be a part of it, where we are proud to invite others to join us!
“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play together is another story.” (Casey Stengel)
“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” (Psalm 122:1)
There is a common misnomer out there, that for a church to be healthy, it has to be huge. If a church is bigger, it must be better. This pitfall is one I often struggle with as a pastor, comparing the numbers and ministries of one church to another. I do it here. I did it in the Midwest. Bigger is better. The larger the church, the better the pastor. The more ministry "programs" they provide, the more impressive they are. Consequently, the smaller the church, the lazier and more incapable the pastor must be. Making use of this faulty logic, a small church must be an unhealthy church. But this is not necessarily the case! Such misguided commentary is a deceptive lie of the devil to destroy and demoralize faithful believers. The size of a church has no direct correlation to the effectiveness of a church. To be sure, a church of any size, that has no desire or plan to grow has lost sight of their mission. They've begun a decline that is inevitable, whether it is evident in the numbers or not. If a church, of any size, abandons the Word of God its days are numbered. If it slips into a self-serving or a survival mode and cares nothing about reaching people in its community, then it has become unhealthy. Numbers do matter of course, especially when they are indicative of Kingdom growth. But just because a church does not draw thousands to weekly worship services and upon a sprawling, college-like campus, does not mean they are unhealthy. This is especially relevant and encouraging news for our church—and for most congregations in the Northeast.
The reality is that most churches in America are not mega-churches. According to a study done in 2018, the average size of an American Christian congregation was 75 people. Four years later, and post-pandemic, I wouldn’t think that number has changed. If anything, it has probably shrunk a little. Over 90% of churches in the US have a total membership of 350 or less. We are not alone. We are not unique. The good news is that we can be both a small church and a healthy church. More importantly, our viability and long-term health is not exclusively tied up in our roster role call. We can be healthy. We can be a mission-driven, difference-making church. During the first next several months, our church leadership is going to wrestle with what it looks like for our church to be a healthy church. Then we are going to fine tune our mission, unique to us here at King of Kings Lutheran Church & Preschool. What is the mission and identity of our church? What is God calling us to do and be in our community? What is our potential in Christ? Please pray for our church leadership as we begin these intentional dialogues; pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten and inspire us. And if you have some thoughts of your own and would like to be involved in the conversation, please reach out. I’d love to get together and talk!
We may be small, in comparison to the nearby Catholic or non-denominational churches around us. But thankfully that doesn’t matter. We are mighty and we'll continue to be faithful!
“It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.” (Mark Twain)
“It's not the size of the dreamer, it's the size of the dream.” (Josh Ryan Evans)
Pastor Steve Vera