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.
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.
* 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.