Grassroots or small ministry has become a dirty word amongst the people. These days, everybody wants to start at the top. Even those that are on the bottom have aspirations that are beyond their meager beginnings. It seems as if they haven’t even asked God if they’re where they’re supposed to be before telling God where they want to go. Nobody wants to plant anymore. We all want to go straight to harvest season.
Nobody wants to be that “little church on the corner” anymore, but little church principles are sorely needed these days. We need to reconnect with that sense of community that we once had as the church. It’s not that everybody knew your business, but there were some people that were concerned about your business, meaning that they cared about what you were going through.
These days, we seem to be isolated both inside and outside of the church. People want to be elevated these days, not so that they can be of greater service to the body, but so that they can be isolated from the body. Believe it or not, the higher you go within the body, the more you should be seen by the body, and not just on the screen, but on the scene. Jesus did His ministry amongst the people, not apart from them.
At the end of 2018, God arrested my attention once again concerning my little corner of the ministry world. I was wrapping up my 12th book and things were going well in my radio ministry. God told me to stay focused. It’s not that I wasn’t or that I was looking to go somewhere that He hadn’t ordered, but it seems as if God was making a preemptive strike on my conscience. He reminded me that He had me exactly where He wanted me in this little corner of the world. Keep writing. Keep delivering The Word across the airwaves. Keep preaching when called upon. Keep teaching when called upon. He reminded me that this is what’s need. A grassroots approach. Don’t turn to the left or right, and by all means, don’t look to see what others are doing. Do what you’ve been called to do.
I’ve taught in places where there were close to 100 people. I’ve preached before 300 people as well. I know, that may not seem like much to some, but I’m not here to exaggerate numbers. I’m on the radio each week in 6 states, potentially speaking to over 1 million people. I even have a podcast. However, some of my best days as a preacher/teacher have come in rooms where there were less than 10 people. There’s something about seeing the impact of the Word of God on people’s faces up close and personal that brings joy to my soul.
Many have perverted their God-given gifts because they’d rather be on a flyer than in the will of God. We can’t allow our ambitions to get in the way of His mission! Our call is to be more attracted to The Light than we are to the spotlight. Even if you’re on the flyer, why are you on the flyer? What are you bringing? We should never look to be the main attraction on God’s program. It should be our desire to be intentional servants.
The church has become more theatrical than therapeutic. It is the job of an entertainer to find out what people want and like and bring it to the stage, screen, or studio. It is the job of the church to identify what the people need and bring it to their attention, whether they like it or not. The fact is, pleasing in His sight isn’t always pleasing to our ears, but we must surrender anyway.
One of the things I find puzzling in ministry is that many of us know what’s not right, and yet, we continue to do it and encourage it. Even in our large spaces, we see the deficiencies in our people, and we continue to make them weaker. A challenging word isn’t just a word that challenges the faith of the believer as they pray for material increase. A challenging word is a word that echoes 1 Peter 1:16 which tells us to be holy because the God we serve is holy.
In my 2016 book “Are We Still Making Disciples”, I no doubt ruffled some feathers when I suggested that we care more about promoting our events and even ourselves than we do about making disciples, which is the primary function of the church. I made it clear then, and I’ll repeat myself here, I have nothing against promoting the church and having a marketing plan. However, I do have something against promoting us above the church.
Whether it be preacher, evangelist, praise team, singing group, or whatever, nothing should take precedence over Jesus. I stated that anything that happened in the church should be looking to do 3 things: Glorify God, get someone saved, and keep someone connected to God. The question was asked, if people leave your event, will they witness about Jesus or the event itself?
It was John The Baptist who said in the Gospel of John 3:30 that Christ must increase, but he himself must decrease. He wasn’t saying that so that he could end his ministry. He was saying that so that the focus of his ministry could have its proper preeminence. “Church” is still popularity driven, but evangelism is still very much a grassroots effort and souls will always be converted one by one, even if a group of people all get baptized on the same day. Even as 3000 were saved in Acts 2:41, we can’t lose sight of the fact that 3000 individual choices were made, and those 3000 were all there as a result of some grassroots efforts on the part of the Disciples.
The challenge for the church is that we recognize when we have become more popular than Christ and shift the focus. The moment they’re drawn by our name instead of the name of Jesus, we must shift the focus. Come off the flyer if you must or do away with it all together, but make sure that Jesus has preeminence. This may shrink the crowds, and dare I say, force us to be more grassroots in our approach to be sure that we’re drawing the right crowds for the right cause, but being set apart and peculiar doesn’t often lend itself to large crowds anyway.
It was the late singer John Lennon who famously said in 1966 that his band The Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”. People were outraged at such a statement and begin to ban The Beatles music in various places. However, the point Lennon was making went over their heads. He wasn’t suggesting that it was the goal of the band to be bigger than Jesus. He was pointing out the absurdity that they were probably more important to some Christians than their Savior.
The church is still facing this crisis because we’ve made some of the things that we do in our churches “bigger than Jesus”. Many won’t even attend a church function if it doesn’t seem like there’s a possibility that it will be standing room only. Worse yet, some ministry leaders won’t put on an event unless they believe they can draw a certain number of people or get certain people on program. I submit to you that if we sometimes do it small, we’ll find out who’s really coming for the right reason. You’ll find out who’ll come out for an event versus who’ll come out for an encounter!
We’ve rebelled against being small, but effective. In an effort to be seen by man, we’re missing the people that we’ve been commissioned to serve. Grassroots isn’t a dirty word. Small group Bible study isn’t an exercise in futility. We must always remember the basics. Believe it or not, God still has a heart for the remnant. He has yet to despise small beginnings. If you start small, but you start in His name, He’ll still do great things within your ministry. That little church on the corner still has power and she should never abandon her call.