I began my ministry in remote communities in Canada’s north where the most quoted Bible verse was “Where two or three are gathered …” We used the verse to console ourselves when the numbers were not great. Later I worked as ‘Field Secretary’ (Personnel Officer) and visited our Evangelists in many remote locations and the same verse cropped up on those occasions. When I came to Saint John in 2000 to teach at Taylor College our classes sizes reminded us of this verse and we used it again to console ourselves that, at least God was with us!
Later as I began to work in the Inner-city and began Uptown Church, I had an epiphany! I thought, “What if God really means what He says? What if his power and presence are most manifest in smallness rather than in vastness?” I began to look at smallness quite differently.
God had the great mission of rescuing a lost humanity and he began with a seed in a virgin’s womb. The power is in the seed! The presence of God is magnified in the small thing!
Influenced by this world we had come to measure ministry by worldly measure. We counted only nickels and noses. Success was in largeness and busyness. The Kingdom principles instead are about stillness and smallness.
Since that epiphany I have tried to joyfully practise small group ministry, not by default but on purpose. Others may be called to ‘mega’ ministry, but I feel a vocation to ‘micro’ ministry. Jesus spent a disproportionate amount of time with small numbers intentionally. The seed that he nurtured in these few followers bore fruit that continues today.
I recall a children’s talk my friend Al Knight gave, one time. He had an apple and he asked the children, “How many seeds do you think are in this apple?” The guesses ranged in the area of 5 or 6. Al cut the apple and they counted them. He then took one seed and said, “How many apples are inside this one seed?” The answer is that there are limitless numbers of apples potentially in that seed, as it becomes a tree that produces more apples each season with more seeds in each apple. The power is not in the big red apple, as big and delicious as it might be, the power is in the relatively tiny seed!
Jesus has given us one template for ministry and the secular world has given us another very different numbers and success driven template. The question for his faithful followers is, “Which model will we adopt?”
It can be a real blow to our pride when we report the micro nature of our ministry to a mega obsessed world and the temptation is to at least want to be a bit ‘mega’, but the power of the seed is in its dying, and this temptation is to be eschewed.
So, I continue to walk with the few who gather under the Street Hope banner. It is a joy to see seeds planted take root, and over the course of time see fruit develop in my friends lives. I know that this fruit carries in it seeds that bespeak a glorious harvest in the future.
I no longer use that Bible verse to console myself because I feel like a failure but rather, I reflect on it knowing that God is powerfully present in our ‘smallness’. It may not be sexy or saleable but there is no place I’d rather be, and I highly recommend it!