The Weakness of God

The first congregation I ever served as a preacher and minister was the Ole Hardy Church of Christ in Hardy, Arkansas.  It was a very small declining church in a very small town tucked in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.*

On most Sundays, the singing was lead by a man I’ll call Tim.  Tim loved to sing just as much as he loved being with his church family.  At first, I was taken back a bit.  Tim had special challenges with a personality to match.  That meant the church was as likely to hear a few stories and other comments which, while never off color or anything like that, didn’t seemed to fit with the point of worship…at least not as I thought they should.  Nevertheless, folks just smiled and didn’t seem to be bothered.  Everyone was joyful as we continued worshiping God together.

That little church there in the back hills of Arkansas will never make the front pages of a magazine story on thriving churches engaged in fruitful kingdom ministry.  Yet they played a big part in an extended Brazilian family becoming Christians.  I know this because the Ole Hardy church helped send me to Brazil for the first time on a short-term mission trip where I met Olivio and began a Bible study with him.  Though I returned in a few weeks to the US, Olivio continued  his Bible study with a local missionary, eventually being baptized into Jesus Christ.

Not long after Olivio had been baptized, he tragically drowned while attending a church retreat in the countryside.  As tragic as his death was, the occasion of his funeral allowed for his family to meet his new church and the missionaries that planted the church.  As a result, those missionaries began teaching the gospel to Olivio’s family and eventually several of his family members became disciples of Jesus Christ too.

I find it to be absolutely amazing the way God works.

This story reminds me of just how God works in this world, which is radically different than we expect.  Throughout history God has always brought about his will which, according to human standards, is through weakness rather than power.  Where there was the powerful Egyptians, God chose Israel.  Where there was a dominative king, God chose a Jewish girl named Esther.  Where there was a mighty giant, God chose a young teenage boy named David.  Where Caesar was, God began with a small group of disciples we call the church.

Wow!

Yet as amazing as that is, it’s all easy to forget.  It’s easy to forget and look for the big grandiose stuff that speaks of power and prestige for success.  That was part of the problem in Corinth which is why the Apostle Paul reminded them that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1.25, NIV).  Still, this was a truth that God even had to remind the Apostle Paul of (cf. 2 Cor 12.8-9).

Now we live in a day where consumerism has trained us to seek the bigger and better.  People looking for churches are naturally inclined to think that bigger is better.  From where I sit, there’s nothing wrong with big churches as they serve a purpose in God’s kingdom.  However, from where I sit, we, the Columbia Church of Christ, a small church in the large Baltimore-Washington D.C. Metro area, serve a purpose in God’s kingdom too.  We can take comfort in knowing that God can accomplish this purpose through us because our God delights in taking our weakness and using it to bring about his glory upon earth.

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          * This article was written for and first appeared  in Connections Newsletter, vol. 27, no. 1 (January 2012), published bi-monthy by the Columbia Church of Christ, Columbia, MD.

6 responses to “The Weakness of God

  1. Refreshing to read our Lord’s work that we cannot see until it’s all done – then we realize how marvellous it is!

    Doesn’t matter if our Church is big or small, Lord want to accomplish His purpose if His Spirit is allowed in and to take complete control.

    Let’s souls be won in Baltimore-Washington D.C. Metro area thru’ you & your Church.

  2. Oh wow, you knew Olivio. I only heard the story through the grapevine while I was living in Uberlandia. That’s fantastic.

    I’ve had quite a few experiences with tiny congregations, in Missouri especially. The local Bible college sent me out for several months as a supply preacher. Some congregations had as few as 5 or 6 older people in attendance. One, with perhaps 30 or so including families, had the odd idiosyncrasy of singing the “Happy Birthday song” without ever announcing any birthdays or explaining why they sang it. Those early experiences preaching for small, aging congregations contributed greatly to my spiritual formation.

    • It is indeed a small world! The reason I met Olivio was because he had attended college in the US at Brigham Young University, where he had learned to speak English. So he approached me because he assumed I could speak English. In doing so, he learned that I was there on an evangelistic mission trip and as it so happens, he had questions about God that he had been trying to answer in his own Bible reading. So he asked me if I could answer some of his questions, of which I gladly accepted such invitation.

      Whenever I think of his story, I am reminded just how much God is providentially at work.

  3. I think most of the worshiping and working for the Lord happens in smaller congregations in this country. The big churches get more attention because of their scale, is all.

    I left a small congregation last year, full of people I loved and was generally glad to work with for God’s sake. My two sons were the only teenagers in the place, and would be grown and gone before any of the other kids became teenagers. They were bored and losing interest fast. We’ve been attending a larger congregation with other kids their age.

    • I’ve been a member of both bigger and smaller churches and from a very human perspective, I find it to be the case that there is pluses and minuses to each size. Having said that, both sizes of church can either live by faith or not live by faith. That choice seems to be the crucial distinction between whether they participate in God’s mission or not.

      Any ways, blessings to your family as you get to know your knew church family and how you can serve with them in God’s mission!

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