Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Book Review - The Big Picture for Small Churches

The Big Picture for Small Churches
John Benton
Evangelical Press

I was talking to someone recently and they were amazed to find out that I was the pastor of two congregations, and they oohed and ahhed over this, assuring me that this work was an amazing calling. Their face and enthusiasm changed somewhat when I told them that one congregation had 35 people out on a Sabbath, and the other about 12.

We live in a world that values only the big and the successful. As John Benton puts it, "a society that worships at the shrine of size." And let's face it, we are part of a small denomination with small congregations. When we look around us and the bigger churches in other denominations, even our biggest congregations look small. And it is easy to become discouraged.

It is for such moments and such congregations that John Benton has written this book. It is a wonderful little book and a timely corrective in a world obsessed with size. Benton reminds us that God is not obsessed with size but with the heart. And he goes on to argue that since God will not give his glory to another, a small congregation is perhaps better situated to be used by God. In a small congregation with little or no earthly resources the credit for success cannot be laid at the feet of "two little old ladies, a blind man and his dog", and so God is seen to be all-glorious. This is no spin job, but an outworking of biblical truth.

Benton outlines some of Satan's tactics in seeking to destroy small fellowships, before going on to set out five key aspects of church life that are attainable in any congregation, no matter its size: Quality presence, Quality welcome, Quality teaching, Quality hospitality and Quality prayer. Closing chapters on 'Heaven's Resources' and 'How to fight discouragement in a small church' make this an extremely helpful and practical book.

Benton doesn't beat about the bush, and he writes in a plain straightforward style. There is much practical pastoral wisdom here to recalibrate our thinking. It would be a great book for every church member to read - not just because of our size, but especially because of the five key qualities he sets out for churches. If we were putting these five into practice, things might be a lot different!

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