With a title like that, this post could go a number of different directions, the most obvious of which would have something to do with the virtue of humility. But my subject is rather different from that, and I want to engage you just long enough to plant the seed of a thought in your mind about a very current matter that relates to the life of our churches in the context of COVID-19. I know, I know, you’re probably very tired of hearing about COVID-19. So am I. But I’ve been thinking about something that I’ve been observing across the ecclesiastical landscape over the last few months – an observation that has been reinforced by the publication of the results of a recent survey performed by the American Bible Society (ABS).
First, the results of the survey, which centered on the engagement of American Christians with the Bible. The ABS found that the percentage of people they classified as “Bible Centered” or “Bible Engaged” has shrunk significantly since the beginning of the pandemic – by 9.7 million American adults in the former category, and by 4.3 million in the latter. These are people who claim that the Bible is central or highly significant to their life choices and relationships. In total, 14 million fewer Americans say that this is true of them now than said so just a few months ago. How can this be? The study found that there was a key correlation between engagement with the Bible on the part of congregants and Bible study / relational efforts by local churches. As churches have curtailed or materially changed many of their ministry activities during the pandemic, congregants have become significantly less engaged with Scripture.
Is this just an inevitable consequence of our current circumstances, or is there something that churches can do? Here’s where the title of this post comes in. Get small. There is so much pressure to get big in our culture. Everything has to be big. Bigger is better. Well, maybe not always. Churches need to be small enough – or have small groups / care groups that are small enough – to feel like family. I’d argue that that is perhaps truer than ever in America right now. Churches that are too big to be able to create a sense of family – where everyone is known and where everyone is cared for both as an individual and as part of the whole – must get small by strategically decentralizing shepherding ministry. All churches must be actively working to ensure that every congregant is engaged in – or is at least actively being pursued for involvement in – small enough groups with real shepherding care and genuine opportunity for family relationship such that no one “falls through the cracks.”
Since you are reading this post, you are probably already engaged. If you are, help to take on the work of ensuring that others are drawn in, especially those who are at risk of drifting. But if you are reading this and are not engaged, don’t let our current context become an excuse for drifting away. Get involved in a group in your church that’s small enough to develop real relationships, and where you will be spiritually and biblically challenged. Now more than ever, we all need to get small.