Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Not Despising Small Things

The trip to Kansas seemed longer than usual. The flat landscape looks more monotonous in the winter without the prairie grass, wheat fields and sunflowers. I knew that it was important for me to visit this supporting church, four hundred miles from home, but it seemed like such a long trip to speak to a congregation of no more than fifty. Though they have been supporting our ministry for over thirty years, I wondered if my visit was really vital in the grand scheme of things. I’m not sure what the grand scheme is, but talking to a group of people in a city of 2,500 with one church for every 300 people is certainly different than living in Delhi, where there is one church for every half a million. To say I wasn’t “pumped” to speak at this church is an understatement. However, over the six-hour drive, my attitude changed. As I made my way on I-35 my mind went back to a period that seems, now, another lifetime.

Thirty-seven years ago I pastored a church on the border of Texas and Mexico of less than one hundred people. It was my first pastorate and I tried to lead that little flock as though it was the largest church in town. We had revival meetings, VBS, pastor conferences and mission conferences. It was a full-service congregation with a budget that could barely pay their pastor, but we tried to compete in the religious marketplace in spite of our handicap.

I don’t remember every missionary that visited who us in Del Rio, but I do remember that anyone who visited had to make a special effort to come to our church. Del Rio is 150 miles west of San Antonio with little between but mesquite brush. No one passed through our town; it was a planned and deliberate journey. Though we didn’t have much to offer, in ways of accommodation, big honorariums or profound monthly support, those who came were appreciated. In hindsight, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t have more of a clue how to take better care of those who made the effort to minister to our little church. Sleeping in a camping trailer parked at the rear of the church was better than staying with some of the members of the church, but it was still hardly adequate accommodations for a visiting speaker.

As I pulled into the parking lot of the little Kansas church I noticed my attitude had a radical transformation. World evangelism is not just for the large and powerful churches with slick programs and big budgets, but for even the little churches stuck on the backside of the state…like the one I pastored in a dusty Texas many years ago.