This week I have the joy of spending a week in Kansas with a group of six teens – four from St. Paul’s and two from Redwood Falls. We’re going to be helping St. Mark’s in Salina, KS with a week of sports camp, helping a bunch of middle school age children learn track and field skills, and hopefully also help them learn what makes Jesus so special to us and our lives.
Sitting in church this morning was striking. Apart from it being a different church with a different pastor and different ways of doing things, what was most significant was the size of the congregation. Without us there it might have numbered 30 people. Yet it was evident they all were happy to be there, happy to hear comfort and encouragement from their pastor, happy to partake of the sacrament together, and happy to share some nice fellowship time together after church. Yes, the Lord is there among a small congregation too.
It is so easy to get hung up on size and scale. I find myself worrying about whether or not this mission trip is one we can be proud of. After all, we’re visiting a small church in the middle of Kansas, we’re not serving hundreds of kids or handing out thousands of fliers. We’re not distributing thousands of pounds of food or serving hundreds of bowls of soup. We’ll be touching the lives of a couple dozen unchurched Midwestern kids and their families. That’s all.
We can’t even argue that we’re going to somehow make a huge impact on the congregation we’re helping. They might not even see another member out of this project. So what’s it worth?
The sermon we heard this morning had a really important reminder, one that we’ll answers all these doubts. See, it isn’t about growing th visible congregation. It isn’t about how much. It is about who. Who are we serving? Who are we touching? Who do they need?
See, this congregation has a chance to meet these couple dozen unchurched kids right where they need to be met, and might communicate the Word of Life to them in a way that they really need this week. That opportunity would not exist if we were not here to help, because this congregation could not do this project without us. So we’re trusting that, small scale though it may be, that the Lord is with the small mission trips too.
This isn’t to say that there is no place for paying attention to the numbers. When planning ministry and trying to make the most of mission dollars and manpower, there is wisdom in seeking to gather the largest audience possible for the Gospel. But it is also worth remembering that when Jesus sat down by a well in Samaria, he didn’t do so when the largest group of women would be coming by. He chose to be there for just the one.