Turning the World Upside Down
by Camille Josey
In one generation God used the small house churches of the early Christian movement to turn the world upside down. By the 4th century, Christianity had spread across the width and breadth of the Roman Empire. No master plan, no vision statement (aside from “Jesus is Lord.”), no CNN. Why, then, do so many small churches in the West today feel so insignificant, as though they do not have the resources to continue the spread of the Gospel?
It’s all a matter of perspective. If your measurements are the traditional budgets, buildings and butts in the pew, a small rural church of 70 members is bound to feel inferior to a 7,000-member church. But take a look from another angle. The first map, labeled >1000 members reflects a total membership of approximately 309,000. What do you notice here? Do you see all of the geographical territory of the U.S.A. that is not reached by these congregations?
Now, take a look at the second map, labeled <150 members. These congregations reflect a total membership of approximately 254,000. What we see here is the way these little congregations blanket the geographical territory of the U.S.A. There’s hardly a populated area beyond the reach of one of these small congregations.
Marine biologists are discovering that one of the most effective ways of restoring and maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems is to create many small marine protected areas (MPAs) tied to local communities who understand the history, culture and idioms of the place, rather than try to create a few large MPAs. The networks created when these small communities are working side by side lead to large areas of healthy ocean ecosystems.
This is how we at The Outreach Foundation see the small church – each church important to a particular place and people, but connected in ways that serve the larger purpose of God’s kingdom. One of our goals is to serve as one of the connecting threads that tie small congregations together for communication, collaboration and conversation.
God is still using the small church to turn the world upside down. In the global south and east, where Christianity is exploding, it is the small church tied to a particular place and people but connected to the larger Body of Christ, that is shining the light of Jesus into their communities. We believe it is equally important to connect congregations in the West with these small dynamic Christian communities in other parts of the world. There is much we have to learn from and contribute to one another as we work together in the work of God’s Kingdom.
Rev. Camille Josey
Small Church Mission Catalyst
Read more about the Small Church Initiative, a ministry of The Outreach Foundation, HERE.