A few weeks ago, I had the great privilege of traveling to one of our smaller in attendance churches to preach. The church was at the end of many miles of dirt road, far removed from any cell phone coverage.
Upon my arrival, I was warmly greeted by a leader in the church who ushered me into the small worship center where the one Sunday School class for adults was being held. The teacher walked through that Sunday’s lesson in the Lifeway quarterly skillfully, teaching the Word and applying its meaning to the class. At the close of Sunday School, a gentleman rose in the back and pulled on a rope ringing the bell in the steeple signaling it was time for the children’s Sunday School class to come for worship.
The attendance board hanging on the wall near the piano registered about 20 people in attendance who all sang in a heartfelt way from hymnals. There was no sound system, projectors or stage lights.
At one point in worship, the song leader announced they would now have the “penny march” whereby one of the children walked throughout the congregation gathering coins that she then meticulously placed in the metal house sitting on the Lord’s Supper table used for offerings to Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children.
The congregation consisting of Native Americans and Anglos sang “Amazing Grace” in Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek and English. As I preached, I could see to my right the large church covenant placard outlining what it means to be a member of the church, and to my left were framed prints containing a list of all the books of the Bible.
At the close of the service, we sang “Happy Birthday” to a church member who was presented with a gift. Next, we had a potluck lunch in the fellowship hall that included homemade fried chicken, mac and cheese, casseroles and meringue pies.
The whole morning just felt like being with a caring family—amazing, loving, down-to-earth folks with faith as deep as a canyon. They are a picture of the family of God. I loved every moment of being at this church and look forward to preaching in many more. It reminded me of my days starting out as pastor of Bethel Acres, Hopewell.
I want to tell you about this church because it is like the majority of churches in our state convention. Of more than 1,700 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches in Oklahoma, about 1,400 have an average worship attendance of less than 100. Nationwide, of more than 47,000 SBC churches, the median church has fewer than 70 in attendance.
We are a convention of small churches. Though small, each of these churches play an important role in Gospel ministry in their communities. Countless pastors and missionaries have been brought up and sent out by smaller in attendance churches. A small church may not be able to give large dollar amounts to the Cooperative Program (CP), but all of those churches partnering together through the CP and mission offerings make a significant impact in Kingdom work all over the globe.
Many of you reading this article either attend or have fond memories of a small church and are thankful for the impact it has on you and your family’s life. In many ways, small churches are the backbone of the SBC and have a significant role in our past and present. I am grateful for ALL of our Oklahoma Baptist churches, both big and small, and how we partner together to change our state and the world for Christ!