Sunday, January 19, 2014

Small churches in small towns

This is something I've been thinking about a lot.  

First of all, you need to know that I attended a larger church in a nearby town for many, many years.  Not a "mega church", but attendance was usually in the four- to five-hundred range.  I didn't really know most of the people there personally, except as we interacted at church.  I worked in the nursery for many years, which made me feel useful.  Not to mention that I love babies and toddlers, so it was fun.  The preaching was good; so was the choir.  The fact that I didn't really know anyone, or have anything in common with them, didn't bother me.  Sometimes it's nice to be invisible.    
And then the lady who picked me up and took me to church had her husband go into a nursing home in the town where that church was, and she spent Sundays with her husband.  So I lost my ride.
I don't drive.  So I just sort of stopped attending church.  One thing I learned as a non-driver is that nobody wants to be bothered picking up some woman every week on their way to church.  

Although he is a believer, Cliff isn't a "church-y" kind of guy, and when he had to go to work every day, he liked having his weekends to work on projects at home.  
When he retired, I said, "OK.  Now you are home all the time.  We are going to church."

Because I'm bossy like that.  Actually, I'm not, usually.  But I knew he would be willing to give up an hour or so to do something I wanted to do, because he likes me. 

I did not want us to have to drive all over the county looking for a church, so we attended services at a few local churches.  Honestly, every one we attended was satisfactory:  The people were friendly and glad to have us there.  Most of the attendees were local folks, so we saw familiar faces.  I would probably have been happy at any of them.  Cliff was fine with all of them, because none of the services lasted over sixty minutes.  

But for some reason, before we even tried all of the local churches, I settled on one.  I have no idea why.  Maybe I was just tired of "church-shopping".  

I think we've been going to that church for at least two years.  Today I told Cliff that I've figured out why small, local churches stay small.  And it isn't any failing in the people or the preachers.  

I grew up going to small churches in small towns until I was twelve years old, and here's what I think the problem is:  You know those church members personally.  You know who has a bad temper and who has had marriage problems.  You've heard about some of their teenagers' exploits.  Old Brother Smith has been know to take one drink too many at times.  You've heard one of the deacons cursing... that's a sin, right?  But the scariest part is, a few of those people know some things about you, and you're not perfect either.  You might be branded a hypocrite for going to church!    

And this is why I have decided I like going to a small church in a small town.  We are all imperfect, and we are admitting we need God in our lives.  We've seen one anothers' faults, and we hope to do better.  That's why we're there.  And hey, how can we judge one another harshly when we know our own imperfections so well?  


Paula said...

Everyone is always saying how we need to get more people to come to our little country historical church. I guess I'm selfish because I like it the way it is compared to Cowboy Fellowship here where you attend with from 800 to 1000.

Sherry said...

I ran across this and I love it, and I believe you can't get much more honest than this,

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting, “I’ve been saved!”
I’m whispering, “I get lost sometimes
That’s why I chose this way”

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t speak with human pride
I’m confessing that I stumble -
needing God to be my guide

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong
I’m professing that I’m weak
and pray for strength to carry on

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success
I’m admitting that I’ve failed
and cannot ever pay the debt

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t think I know it all
I submit to my confusion
asking humbly to be taught

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible
but God believes I’m worth it

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartache
which is why I seek God’s name

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I do not wish to judge
I have no authority
I only know I’m loved

Copyright 1988 Carol Wimmer


Interesting observations.

Xavier Onassis said...

This is mostly irrelevant to the subject of your post, but it's one of my favorite jokes.

Three men went to their seats at the football game and there were a couple of nuns sitting ahead of them.

The men wanted to drink beer and swear at the referees and not be scolded by nuns, so they decided to badger the nuns and get them to move.

One guy said, "I think I'm going to move to Utah, there are only 100 Catholics living there..."

The second said, "I want to go to Montana, there are only 50 Catholics there..."

The third guy said, "I want to go to Idaho, there are only 25 Catholics living there..."

One of the nuns turned around and said, "Why don't you go to hell. There aren't any Catholics there."


Xavier Onassis said...

OK, one more.

Mother Teresa died and went to heaven.

God met her and asked if she was hungry.

Mother Teresa said, "I could eat,"

So God opens a can of tuna and some rye bread and they share it.

As she ate, Mother Teresa looked down into Hell and saw the people there eating huge steaks, lobsters, expensive wine, flaming desserts.

Mother Teresa said, "I'm really glad to be in heaven, God, but why do we just eat tuna and rye bread while down in hell they're eating like kings?"

God said, "Well, for just two people, why bother to cook?"

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

Glad you found a church you like and that Cliff goes too.

Barbara In Caneyhead said...

Our little church is busting at the seems when 150 show up on any given Sunday morning. I grew up in a small church that grew large. This little church now has been on a growth spurt the past two years with no sign of slacking. But the main thing that strikes me about knowing each other better and having more knowlege about thier sins and warts is how amazingly Our God can still use such imperfect people! Even me. ;)