For a hint of what this wonderful book is all about, check out Chapter 1, listed below for your pleasure:
A Parable of Comparison
While pasturing in rural Kentucky, I enjoyed the woodlands. In the spring, the trees would burst in a beautiful display of yellows, oranges, and greens. Unnoticed under the canopy of oaks and hickories were smaller trees called dogwoods and red buds. The red buds (also known as Judas trees) would display blood red flowers. Beside them, the dogwoods would bloom soft white and gold. When the flowers faded, these smaller trees would vanish, blending back into the forest.
One day while hiking I came upon a strange sight. In the midst of the forest, a convocation of trees was in session. I hid myself and listened in on their proceedings as Brother Oak stood behind the council rock to speak.
The chair wishes to thank Brother Sequoia for that stirring speech entitled ‘How to Produce Tons of Nuts Without Going Nuts’. We have received fraternal greetings from the Woodland Creatures Association, thanking all of us for providing the much needed fruits that sustained them over this last winter. Now the chair recognizes our distinguished committee composed of Brother Hickory, Brother Ash, Brother Elm, and Brother Maple.”
The oak gave way to a very large hickory which moved ever so slowly behind the rock.
“The task before us was of the greatest and gravest concern. Our special called committee could not have done this work without the encouragement of our distinguished chair, Brother Oak,” Brother Hickory said. “Our assignment was to determine if the smaller members of our association were, in fact, trees.” Now I’ve never seen trees speaking to each other before, so I’m not completely sure, but it seemed as if there was a nervous pause. Scanning the crowd, I noticed that the majority of attendees were smaller trees - - dogwoods, red buds, cedars, and so forth.
“After a diligent comparison of the small trees to ourselves we have come to the conclusion that they are not trees in the general sense of the word,” Brother Hickory said. “They are not as tall and don’t produce as many leaves as we do. Their fruit and seed production is far below ours, nor do they enjoy the clear sunlight. Their contribution to the woodland fauna is negligible compared to us. Not only that, but they also drain the necessary resources from the forest floor that we need to continue our grand work. However, in the interest of unity and fidelity, we move that the small trees be allowed to remain as members of our fraternity.”
Brother Oak now stepped up behind the rock. “Are there any questions?”
A dogwood stood and addressed the podium. “Brother Oak, what sense does it make to compare us to you? Any such comparison would, of course, render the results the committee has reported. We smaller trees are indeed trees. We have bark, roots, branches, stems, and leaves. We flower, bear fruit and seed. We provide for the woodland wildlife in many ways. In short, we follow the Creator’s pattern. We may not be as grand as you, but we are still trees.”
A muffled sound of affirmation rolled across the gathered assembly. Silence followed. Then Brother Oak said, “It is the opinion of the chair that this matter be referred back to the committee for further review.”
The convocation quickly broke up and I returned to my wanderings before being detected. I mused at how ridiculous it was for the larger trees to assume that the smaller ones weren’t really trees at all. Is the dogwood less of a tree because it doesn’t reach to the height of the oak’s grand canopy? Of course not.
When we think about small, medium, large, and mega-churches, we must ask ourselves the question – is bigger really better? Smaller churches are smaller due to many different factors, but they are still churches. So why is there such an emphasis on making things big? If we took a red bud tree from the forest and planted it in an open field where it had plenty of sunshine and no competition for root space, it would remain small. We ask the question – shouldn’t every tree (read church) grow to huge heights with a grand canopy producing tons and tons of mass for the woodland fauna? The answer is each tree behaves according to it's creation. The same is true for the church. The small church is unique and has been strategically placed in a community by the Lord. It may not have the large budget and huge programs of a mega congregation, but it has everything it needs to impact its community for the kingdom.
Too many churches and pastors labor under the illusion that they aren’t doing enough for the kingdom because they are small. Let me relieve you of that burden. Smaller does not mean less than, but it does mean different. So much is written and geared toward the large and mega church audience that it can feel like the small congregation is ignored. Ironically, the large and mega church is trying to capture the small church feel. That’s why they have so many pastors and staffers to handle the larger audience. They really want what you have! So if you are serving in a small congregation – whether rural, urban, or suburban – focus on your strengths. Remember the dogwood and red bud. They bring beauty and grace to a spring-time woodland that is gray and dreary. They are not less than the other trees, they are just different. Their difference is their strength. Look around your church and I guarantee you there is at least one thing that your church does better than anyone else. Celebrate that strength and continue to do it, even if it doesn’t seem “big” enough.
Originally posted on the Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network.