It is all too easy to despise the day of small things (Zechariah 4:10) when it comes to one’s view of small churches – to think little of a church based on its size (or lack thereof). As a pastor of a rather small church myself, I must confess that at times it is easy to be discouraged when I see empty seats on the Lord’s day.
And so it was no small encouragement to come across the following remarks by John Murray (1898-1975) in a sermon that he preached on Matthew 18:20 over half a century ago. That text of Scripture is as follows:
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (ESV)
Professor Murray offers the following hypothetical scenario for our consideration:
“Let us suppose that on a particular occasion, where a much larger number of people are accustomed to gather, only two happen to come to the service. When the minister came to the pulpit and found that there were only two there, he said to them, “Well, since there are so few of us here today, we better suspend the service.” Of course, the minister then would be doing the gravest dishonor to the promise of Christ. He would be offering the gravest insult to the Lord of Glory himself.”O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?, p.223
He goes on to suggest that the same would be true if even only one person came to the service, so that the pastor only had an audience (so to speak) of one! But why would this be such a grave insult to Christ and his promise? Murray goes on to say:
“For Christ’s institution is, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” We must always remember that where there are only three, there are also four – and the fourth is the Lord of Glory. And where there are only two, there are always three -and the third is the head of the church, Christ himself.”Ibid, p.223-224
Are we unduly impressed by large numbers of people in attendance, when the Lord Jesus Himself, the Lord of glory and the head of His church, is present among us? Likewise, do we despise the day of small things and offer insult to the honor of Christ by looking down our noses at His church when we see only a handful or so in attendance?
You could say that for the true church, even the smallest outpost of the visible church on this earth, if viewed rightly according to Scripture, is a really mega-church, for Christ is in her midst! In other words, in some rather important ways there is no such thing as a “small” church!
There are certainly a number of challenges and difficulties faced by smaller churches. But let us not compound the problem by having a low view of the church where Christ is present. And no matter how big or small our church might be, may we always be mindful of the presence of Christ among us in public worship on the Lord’s day, so that we seek to do all things in a manner that is well-pleasing in His sight, regardless of who else is or is not in attendance.