A Parable of Comparisons

While pastoring in rural Kentucky I enjoyed the woodlands that surrounded my church. One day while hiking I came upon a strange site. In the midst of the forest, a convocation of trees was in session. I hid myself and listened in on their proceedings as Brother Oak stood behind the council rock to speak.
“The Chair wishes to thank Brother Sequoia for that stirring speech entitled, ‘How to Produce Tons of Nuts Without Going Nuts.’ We have received fraternal greetings from the Woodland Creatures Association thanking all of us for providing the much needed fruits that sustained them over this last winter. Now the Chair recognizes our distinguished committee composed of Brother Hickory, Brother Ash, Brother Elm and Brother Maple.”
The Oak gave way to a very large Hickory which moved ever so slowly behind the rock. “The task before us was of the greatest and gravest concern. Our special called committee could not have done this work without the encouragement of our distinguished Chair, Brother Oak. Our assignment was to determine if the smaller members of our association were, in fact, trees.”
Now I’ve never seen trees speaking to each other before, so I’m not completely sure, but it seemed as if there was a nervous pause. Scanning the crowd I noticed that the majority of attendees were smaller trees – Dogwoods, Red Buds, Cedars, and so forth.
“After a diligent comparison of the small trees, so called, to ourselves, we have come to the conclusion that they are not trees in the general sense of the word. They are not as tall and don’t produce as many leaves as we do. Their fruit and seed production is far below ours nor do they enjoy the clear sunlight. Their contribution to the woodland fauna is negligible compared to us. Not only that, but they also drain the necessary resources from the forest floor that we need to continue our grand work. However, in the interest of unity and fidelity we move that the small trees, so called, be allowed to remain as members of our fraternity.”
Brother Oak now stepped up behind the rock. “Are there any questions?”
A Dogwood stood and addressed the podium. “Brother Oak what sense does it make to compare us to you? Any such comparison would of course render the results the committee has reported. We smaller trees are indeed trees. We have bark, root, branch, stem and leaves. We flower, bare fruit and seed. We provide for the woodland wildlife in many ways. In short we follow the Creator’s pattern. We may not be as grand as you but we are still trees.”
A muffled sound of affirmation rolled across the gathered assembly. Silence followed. Then Brother Oak said, “It is the opinion of the chair that this matter be referred back to the committee for further review.”
The convocation quickly broke up and I returned to my wanderings before being detected. I mused at how ridiculous it was for the larger trees to assume that the smaller ones weren’t really trees at all. Is the Dogwood less of a tree because it doesn’t reach to height of the Oak’s grand canopy? Of course not.
So why do we make the same assumptions about churches? Is the smaller congregation less of a church because of its size? It may not have the large budget and huge programs of a mega congregation but it has everything it needs to impact its community for the kingdom.
Too many churches and pastors labor under the illusion that they aren’t doing enough for the Lord because they are small. Let me relieve you of that burden. Smaller does not mean less than, but it does mean different. The large and mega churches are trying to capture the small church feel. They really want what you have!
So if you are serving in a small congregation whether rural, urban or suburban what’s the solution? Focus on your strengths. Look around your church. I guarantee you there is at least one thing that your congregation does better than anyone else. Celebrate that uniqueness and continue to do it even if it doesn’t seem “big” enough. Remember, what you have is what everyone else wants – a place where people can connect and be valued.

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