CHRISTIANITY DAILY

If Your Church Is Small, It's Normal: 'Part of the 85 Percent'

A preaching conference for pastors of non-self sufficient churches and church plants was hosted by I Love Pastor, a Korean organization that serves non-self sufficient churches and church plants. The fourth ‘calling conference’ which took place on April 11 at Ttokamsa Church was centered on the theme, ‘The crisis and challenge of preaching,’ and featured Rev. Steve Sekyu Chang, the senior pastor of One Body Church in Virginia, as the main speaker.

Chang started out with the question, “Pastors, why do you preach?” No one answered. “Before I talk about the crisis and challenge of preaching, I want to talk about the preacher,” he said.

“Jesus only had 12 disciples left by the time he ascended into heaven after three years of ministry. If you have been wrestling with 20 to 30 congregants for over 30 years, your reward in heaven will really be great. Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and even greater things than these’ (John 14:12), and Jesus will acknowledge that you have been doing even greater things than he did,” Chang said in encouragement.

“Even if all of us were to get MBAs, it doesn’t necessarily mean all of us will be great at running restaurants. It’s the same with preaching — just because we learned about preaching, doesn’t mean all of us will be good at it. And the type of preaching we learned in seminary were more fitting for large church models, so if we were to use those strategies exactly the same way for our non-self sufficient churches or church plants, that would be a problem,” he continued.

“According to surveys, 85 percent of all churches world wide consist of 150 members — adults and children combined — and the churches with more than 1,000 members take up only 0.8 percent,” Chang explained. “Having the dream to minister to 10,000 people gives you motivation and passion when you first start out ministry, but once you have your own church, you have to understand and accept the reality quickly and adjust to that. And if we are not part of that 0.8 percent, we must change our style of pastoring and preaching to fit our circumstances.”

I Love Pastor
(Photo : Christianity Daily)
Rev. Steve Sekyu Chang spoke at the recent 'calling conference' hosted by I Love Pastor.

Chang introduced the concept of Dunbar’s Number, a numerical limit to how many people one can maintain stable relationships suggested by the research of British anthropologist Robin Dunbar. Through his research with tribes living in remote areas, he found that all tribes consist of about 150 people or less, and theorized that relative to the size of a person’s neocortex in the brain, the amount of people he or she can have meaningful relationships with varies. For most people, that Dunbar’s Number is 150.

“If the number of your congregants becomes greater than 150, you can’t have as personal or meaningful relationships with each member,” Chang said. “Of course, there are those who are part of that 0.8 percent with an abnormally high Dunbar’s Number who can minister to 1,000 people or more. But those of us who are ‘normal’ and are part of that 85 percent are not like that. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you can minister to 10,000 people but that opportunity just hasn’t come to you. Don’t be so concerned about the numbers and just enjoy your ministry.”

He went on to discuss more about preaching itself, and said, “The best kinds of sermons are those that blesses the congregation.”

“We need to know who our members are and what their needs are, and preach about those things that are relevant to them,” he emphasized. “You all have been called not only to be preachers, but to be pastors. Pastors are preachers, teachers, speakers, and a lot of other things, but there are things only a pastor can do. A pastor must take care of the sheep with the heart of a parent.”

“We aren’t chefs of a five-star hotel; we are just mothers ... Even if our sermons aren’t like the quality food at five-star hotels, all we need to do is put our heart and effort into it just as a mother does when she prepares food for her child,” Chang said. “Don’t worry about whether the congregation will be blessed. The Holy Spirit is such a master that he can bless our members with just one phrase or expression or comparison or even just one word from a praise song. He has the power to do that.”

Meanwhile, I Love Pastor (ILP) was spearheaded and established 14 years ago by lay members of the Korean church in both South Korea and the U.S. For much of its history, the organization offered seminars and tours for pastors of non-self sufficient churches and church plants in South Korea, but starting four years ago, similar programs have been offered for pastors of Korean immigrant churches in the U.S. Among the programs offered for pastors in the U.S., the ‘calling conference’ focuses on rejuvenating and renewing pastors.

This article was translated by Rachael Lee. For the original in Korean, visit kr.christianitydaily.com.

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