In an issue of the Founders Journal, (issue 73, Summer 2008) Dr. James P. Boyce’s 1879 commencement address to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was published. The theme of the message was about holiness and purity in the minister’s life. During the course of his remarks he makes some very interesting statements related to the small and large church pastorates.
He said, “Many other indications of this evil might be pointed out, but I only refer to those to show you why in wishing you a successful pastorate we do not mean one which shall be chiefly marked by the numbers which you baptize. Nor do we have the desire that you shall be called to large city pastorates. The success of a minister is often measured in this way. ”
I think Dr. Boyce has hit on the problem. We assume that the larger the church, the more successful (it seems) the pastor is. Which means that if you haven’t moved up (from the small congregation) something must be wrong with you. Try this equation on for size:
A large church is prestigious,
Its pastor is powerful;
Therefore, the pastor of a large church is a success.
Is this true? I think we could plug many other descriptive words in place of “prestigious” and “powerful” and still have the same result. The problem is we have replaced the church’s (spiritual; holiness and purity for example) idea of success with the the world’s (business; numbers and money).
Where does this leave the Small Church pastor? He is told he is a failure. This is both spoken and unspoken. Of course, it is communicated in the nicest Christian way possible. Even when trying to recognize the Small Church the big church crowd still manages to suggest that the Small Church pastor can learn a lot from the successful large/mega church pastor. Try a new equation:
The small church is strong,
Its pastor is versatile;
Therefore, the pastor of a small church is a champion.