My wife, Paula, and I were relaxing one evening, sharing thoughts about the success of a missional event in which our church participated. I was expecting Paula to be happy with our outreach effort.
Instead she said, “We need to do another one—real soon!” I wasn’t quite ready for her reply because I said: “Sheesh! How much is enough? How many people do we need in church for you to be satisfied?”
At this time, we had around 150 people in the church, which for me was huge because, in our first 15 years as pastors, we averaged fewer than 100 souls on any given Sunday.
We were seeing a number double the size we’d had for 15 years. It was under 200, but I would say to myself, “We’re double the national average!”
Paula snapped back: “Ron, I don’t know how much is enough. That’s your job to find out. But I know this: This is not it!”
I was humbled by Paula’s simple challenge.
So, after 15 years as a pastor, I was asking the Lord, “How many people have you graced me to pastor?” You see, I had an aversion to attendance goals (which, by the way, I still do). I found myself now asking the Lord, “What’s my grace capacity?”
In other words, how many people can I pastor effectively? How has God blessed me? How has He wired me? What does He expect from my efforts without shipwrecking my marriage, kids, health or church?
Soon, this number was made very clear to me. I then had a measurable number that wasn’t in competition with others in my city or my denomination. And it wasn’t an arbitrary number from other pastors. It was a personal number.
Here’s the rub: I believe there is a small group of pastors who can grow a megachurch. I call these pastors “five-baggers,” taken from Matthew 25:14-30 (NKJV), the end-time Parable of the Talents. I believe the multi-talent servants in this parable are like the pastors who lead our largest churches. All of us have been graced, gifted and favored—but not all of us are five-baggers. Remember, God’s favor isn’t fair.
So, how does one arrive at a healthy, missional, growing church if you’re not a pulpit superstar? What about the other 90 percent of pastors?
I thank God for the champions of the church. I appreciate our authentic church superstars, pastors who can take a church from zero to hero with what seems like little effort. But, statistics show they are in the vast minority. The average size of a church in the U.S. proves that. The vast majority of pastors fall at the one- or two-talent level. That’s most of us reading this devotional!
When it comes to church size, most of us are either moved by guilt or moved by pride. But when we hear from God and see how He has gifted us, our motivation becomes obedience covered with gratitude.
What if one says, “I’ve reached my capacity”? I say, "Plant another church!" Send out ministers and missionaries. Disciple your members to impact their world.
May we long to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).
- Let's pray for God’s empowerment to transform our faith communities.
- Let's pray more pastors can lead with the grace He has given us in these last days.
- Let’s pray we seek ways to take risks again, to dream again, to use everything in our bag for the kingdom’s sake.
Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.