God Loves The Small Church
[ Extracted and edited from D2Y2 Magazine, August – November 2007, Volume 1 Issue 3 ]
There are 5,000 hungry people (and counting) sitting orderly by the open field, waiting to be fed. A boy gives up his lunch of five loaves and two fishes to Jesus. Jesus gives thanks for the food, breaks the bread and commands His disciples to distribute them. They nervously move towards the first row of wide-eyed, arms-stretched, empty-stomached people, thinking to themselves, “How could this ever be enough?”
But as they obediently distribute what they have in their hands, the food miraculously replenishes right before their very eyes. They rejoice as they move, confident with every step, towards the end of the first row. Then it happens, just as they are about to attend to the next row of hungry people, the front of the first row cries out for more food. The cries are almost deafening.
The people have tasted of good food, and they want more, and they want it now. Distracted, the disciples run to meet their needs. They go through the entire first row again and just when they were about to move to the second row, they hear the same cries and the process repeats. By the fourth or fifth time this happens, the first row has had their fill and is no longer in need. But they do have “wants” and before the disciples can even finish replenishing their plates (or hands), they take the liberty to place their personal orders.
One person says, “When you come back, please bring me some curry. This bread is pretty bland without some gravy.” Another says, “I would like the fish fried” and yet another says, “Please steam mine, less salt, no oil please.” All this happens while the second, third… and fiftieth row has not had the privilege even of the crumbs that fall from the first row and are so desperately hungry that they would settle for just about anything the disciples could offer, if they could only get to them.
Successful Youth Ministry
Not one that has all the “stuff” but not the substance, or one that just entertains the “spoilt” instead of evangelising the seekers.
Get the picture?
That is pretty much the picture of modern day youth ministry, especially in the big cities. Unfortunately, everyone else follows what happens in the big cities. We think it as the perfect model, that if we can just have the same lights, sounds, colours, brochures and budget, we will (or have) “arrive(d)”. This is obviously not true.
For the sake of our future and the future of youth ministry in Malaysia and beyond, we must stop and ask ourselves these questions:
What kind of youth ministry are we really building?
What kind of message are we sending?
What kind of legacy do we want to leave behind for future youth leaders?
And of course, who are we really reaching?
Are we reaching young people who are already filled (and spoilt for choice)?
Are we making youth ministry an expensive “sport”, unattainable to the less (financially) fortunate or non-multitalented?
Must the best youth speakers only come from overseas?
Must every youth concert or conference be “entertainingly” more attractive than the last one to be successful?
What about the millions who are yet (waiting) to be fed, both within Malaysia and elsewhere?
Those who would be happy just to have the preacher together with his borrowed second-hand projector and a four piece band concert in their fluorescent lit kampung community hall with sound system that was carried in the same van they all travelled in.
God loves the smaller churches in the smaller towns.
It is they, and not the mega churches in the mega towns, that are really the majority in this nation and all over the world.
I am not against creativity and excellence. If you knew me personally or knew of me, you would know that could not be further from the truth. l love the “WOW!” factor. l live to blow mindsets away and to help people be more open to the ways of Christ. But I have been noticing what l see as an alarming trend that needs to be addressed, not so much to create confusion or comparison but rather to give hope, especially to the majority of youth workers out there who need to be encouraged, including parents and pastors.
God loves the smaller churches in the smaller towns. It is they, and not the mega churches in the mega towns, that are really the majority in this nation and all over the world. They may be smaller but they are no less significant. And like any other church, they have a responsibility to create a future that is both successful and sustainable.
We must be careful not to do them injustice by painting the “wrong” or “imbalanced” picture of what a successful youth ministry – that is one that makes disciples that make the difference wherever God may position them, not one that has all the “stuff” but not the substance, or one that just entertains the “spoilt” instead of evangelising the seekers.
I am challenging the community of believers, as well as myself, to move beyond the first row. It is time to leave the 99 in search of the one. It is time to put the bite back into youth ministry and really make the difference in this nation!
D2Y2, which stands for Don’t Despise Your Youth, was an official Asian Youth Ambassador (AYA) magazine birthed out in the late 90s. The printed materials communicated dynamic and effective encouragement to and from the Church, with special emphasis on the knowledge and experiences of our Christian youths, which we believe the content is still relevant and applicable in this current generation.