We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. — Romans 15:1 (Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. –From The Message, a paraphrase)
I wrote on Facebook something like this:
Sometimes one of our churches is bigger than all the others in their town or county combined. When that happens, the church leadership has to make a decision. One, they can say, “We don’t need you small churches. We’re number one.” Or, two, they can turn around and help the smaller churches. One of these choices is Christlike and the other carnal.
The comments came in, in a predictable manner, opting for the obvious second choice. Someone said, ” Yes, but sometimes the small churches do not want your help and resist any attempt to encourage them.” True enough.
So, the question is what to do when a large church is willing to assist and encourage the smaller churches but are rebuffed in the attempt? Are there ways for them to show Christlike care and compassion even when the smaller churches are not receptive?
I think so. Here are five ways that come to mind.
One. We can pray for the small churches.
I was in a church recently that did this in the Sunday morning service. The pastor called the name of the church and its pastor and asked for Heaven’s blessings on their labors.
Two. We can be loving and faithful role models.
Pastors should learn the names of the other ministers and greet them by name. We should do nothing in our ministries that leave the impression we are competing with other churches or working to undermine them. Small churches do not have the resources of the great congregations, so the big guys have to stay constantly aware of how their outreach and ministries are affecting their neighbors. As often as possible, it’s good to cooperate with the small churches.
Three. We can make sure we do no harm to the small churches.
One of the most damaging things the mega-church can do toward the smaller congregations is to relocate next to them. When a church plants a new campus of several hundred acres and establishes its schools, daycare ministries, sprawling parking lots in every direction, and a worship center larger than most coliseums within sight of another church of that denomination, you can bet it will be seen as a hostile act. Hostile or not, it was definitely inconsiderate.
Let’s respect the other churches. They too are members of Christ’s body, His bride, His family.
Four. We can support the work of the association which will be able to help many of the smaller churches.
The staff and leadership of Mammoth Church should attend and participate in pastors conferences, VBS clinics, and the annual meetings, and support the work financially. In many cases, the ministerial staff of the big church is usually better trained and more experienced than anyone the association brings in to lead conferences. But no matter. Go anyway. When a pastor hires a new staff member, he should make it plain that this will be expected. If a prospective staffer indicates he/she has no intention of supporting associational events, this is a deal-breaker. Our obligation to smaller churches should always be a huge thing to the leadership.
Five. We can help the smaller churches anonymously.
When I pastored the big church in a county seat town and met a pastor who was doing a good work but struggling financially–there are ways to tell–on several occasions I did things to help. One church had a fund supported by a generous family which enabled the pastor to help anyone he chose without having to go through committees. (Note: This can be done, but should be set up carefully by capable financial leaders with full accountability on the pastor’s part. Let us not lead the pastor into temptation here or leave room for the enemy to attack.) Several times, we arranged for a men’s store to call that struggling pastor with the news that someone had bought him a new suit and he should come down and pick one out. (Interestingly, I began doing that after someone did it for me!)
In another church, when I came across a helpful book on deacons written by a staff member at Lifeway, I called our Director of Missions. “If you will get that guy to come and teach the book, my church will serve a steak dinner to all the preachers and deacons of our association.” That night we served some 150 men and heard a great presentation on the work of deacons.
You’ll find ways to help the smaller churches if you ask the Lord and pay attention.