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Small churches not too small to give
Being small is not a limitation nor does it stop God's work, according to the pastor of a smaller California Southern Baptist Convention congregation. Grant Bennett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kernville, told participants at two Smaller Membership and Rural Church Conferences in March, how God blessed and changed his congregation through ministry to the community.
by Terry Barone

FRESNO - Being small is not a limitation nor does it stop God's work, according to the pastor of a smaller California Southern Baptist Convention congregation.

Grant Bennett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kernville, told participants at two Smaller Membership and Rural Church Conferences in March, how God blessed and changed his congregation through ministry to the community.

Providing encouragement and practical ideas for pastors, church staff and members of smaller membership and rural churches was the purpose of the conferences sponsored by the California Southern Baptist Convention healthy church group.

Bennett explained that through prayer-walking the community, he discovered a trailer park - "a pocket of need" - just two blocks from the church.

"I saw families and kids, moms and dads without hope. I felt we needed to do something, but didn't know exactly what that was."

So, Bennett and a few church members began cooking hotdogs to meet and build relationships with those living in the trailer park. Soon, Bennett said, more people from the church wanted to join the outreach activity and the congregation began ministering.

The families of those living in the trailer park heard about how the church was caring for them, and they started coming to church, Bennett said.

"The Holy Spirit began to use us to lead these people and their extended families to the Lord," he said.

Bennett added that the community began to notice what was happening and people from outside the church began donating materials and volunteering to help.

"This ministry that we didn't know how to fund was paying for itself and people were coming to the Lord," Bennett said.

He noted the Kernville congregation that once was less than half full is now full most Sundays. The church has rented the local golf course the past couple of years for Easter services, drawing more than 400.

"I don't know where your church is today, but small is not a limitation. Small can be powerful. Being small does not stop God's work," Bennett declared.

Make your congregation "a welcoming place that loves and serves your community," he encouraged. "We are here to love Kernville into a growing relationship with Christ. It's easier than you think."

Also addressing the Yuba City conference were J. Ballard, director of missions for Feather River Baptist Association, and Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

Ballard encouraged pastors of smaller congregations to not forget what they have and are in Christ, based on the Apostle Paul's writing in Ephesians 1. Ballard noted some of the verbs Paul uses to describe what Christians are in Christ: blessed, chosen, holy, blameless, adopted, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, etc.

He noted that "grace has been lavished upon us and we are sealed and assured." Because of that, Ballard exhorted pastors not to "let the daily stuff get hold of us to deal with," but instead, "let the Lord deal with it."

"Live worthy of the calling you have received" to equip the saints for the work of ministry, he encouraged.

Iorg called the church at Antioch the "model church" of the New Testament, which  set the example for church behavior that ought to be evident in every congregation. "The principles are the same," he said, but "the application points are different."

Iorg noted several things that make the Antioch church worth emulating: reaching the lost for Christ, having an entrepreneurial mindset, being empowered by the Holy Spirit and enjoying giving itself away (both money and people).

Reminding the audience that disciples of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch, Iorg elaborated, "They were called 'Christ ones.' People would say, 'Here come the Christ ones, because that is all they know how to talk about!'"

"Your church must make evangelism a priority," Iorg said. "Just because your church is small or rural doesn't mean that people aren't lost. People in your community may be conservative and look like us, but if they don't have a relationship with Christ, they are lost."

The Holy Spirit is evident in the people God used in the Antioch congregation - Barnabas, Paul, Agabus. To be like the early church, Iorg challenged the audience to "investigate and find out what it means to be filled with and experience the Holy Spirit."

Iorg also encouraged churches to give their money and people away. The Antioch church was a giving church as exemplified in the offering donated for famine relief in Judea, and by the commissioning of Barnabas and Saul to be missionaries.

It is a myth that small and rural churches are "too small to give anything away," Iorg declared. "The Bible teaches that when we give, God replenishes. When we give, He replenishes so we can give more."

The conferences were held in Yuba City and at California Baptist University in Riverside. This was the second year for the conference and Charles McClung, CSBC ministry evangelism specialist, noted the Convention expanded the number of workshops to attract pastors and members from smaller and rural churches throughout the state. For more information contact McClung at cmcclung@csbc.com.
Last Published: April 30, 2014 11:52 PM
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