Smaller churches often point to their size or lack of resources as excuses for why they are not more involved in ministry. "We just don't have the people," or "We don't have the finances," are the reasons some churches give for not engaging their communities for Christ. Neither are acceptable reasons.
In Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream David Platt points out that "The plan of Christ is not dependent on having the right programs or hiring the right professionals but on building and being the right people - a community of people - who realize that we are all enabled and equipped to carry out the purpose of God for our lives."
We often have the tendency to look for a program or strategy for evangelism or discipleship. Platt is telling us that the only strategy we need is for each of us to use the gifts and passions God has already given us to touch the lives of other people. In his book he shares the stories of several individuals who are doing just that. They are not waiting for a denomination to give them the flavor of the month program. They are living their Christian faith in community with others who do not yet share that faith and impacting those lives.
Smaller churches are uniquely positioned to offer this kind of relationship to others outside the faith. Larger churches have to form small groups for relationship building; we are already a small group. Such community should come natural to us. The challenge is to be willing to invite others to be a part of the community we share, and this is sometimes a challenge for smaller churches.
The even greater challenge is often to be willing to take that community outside the church. We often still have the mindset that people need to come to us. The biblical model is that the church goes to them. I'm not talking about going door-to-door handing out tracts. I am talking about developing genuine relationships with people outside the church and finding ways to serve them.
Right now I'm thinking about a woman who is very involved in the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity in her community. She has the opportunity to build relationships with the people building the houses as well as the families who will eventually move into those houses. She's had many opportunities to share her faith within the context of those relationships.
I'm also thinking of two women who recently walked with a co-worker whose mother was in hospice. This family had no church home. These women, from different churches, was able to point the co-worker to a pastor who could conduct the funeral service when the time came and who provided great pastoral care to this family during the woman's illness. These women continue to minister to their friend in his time of grief.
How do we do the work of God? As Platt wrote, it's about being the right people, a community of people, who are willing to invest their lives in the lives of others. Any of us can do that.