I had the pleasure of spending Sunday with some great folks over at Faith Family Church in Watson, La. I shared about our upcoming work in Thailand and was able to honor a man who influenced me greatly for the Gospel at a key moment in my life, Floyd Cox.
Floyd took the time to explain the Gospel to me when I was ready to hear, provided me with books to help me grow in my faith, set the example by going on short term missions, and pointed me to a local church where I could grow in the faith. Twelve years later, here I was speaking at his local church about becoming a missionary to Thailand. Is Floyd a Pastor? Not officially, but he is a disciple of Jesus who though he works a 40 hour week job to support his family, still makes time to reach people for the Lord.
As we traveled to the church this Sunday, I noticed a few things. First, as I was driving throughout the countryside of this part of Louisiana, I noticed churches of all stripes everywhere we went. I probably saw a dozens different flavors of church from post modern to ultra fundamental. Each church represented stories… Stories of God working in and through them, stories of drama-both good and bad, and stories of changed lives, not necessarily in mass fashion, but one by one. Although each one may not agree on every point of doctrine, the one thing they could probably all agree on is the fact that Jesus is Lord of all.
I thought about how just like small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, small churches are the back bone of American Christianity. I think of the example of small town Pastors, like Pastor Gordon Atwell of Faith Family, who not only face the unique challenges of being a Pastor in small town America, but who also have to work extra jobs to make ends meet to support their family. In this case, he has eight children, all of whom help with the church!
Each week he presses on to fulfill the calling that God has given him to reach the small town of Watson, LA…with a smile on his face, preaching each Sunday morning like the room was filled with thousands though less than a hundred are in attendance. Day in and day out, he calls small town folks to look beyond their four walls into their communities and the world. He speaks of the power of Jesus Christ to change lives, he challenges people to be involved in their world, and to put down petty issues for the sake of reaching their neighbors.
To be sure, I love big churches. I am a part of one. I believe that everything healthy will grow and flourish, but I realized something from my Sunday trip. I realized that America, the world for that matter, will never stop needing these small country churches and Pastors. These are the people who are being faithful to their callings day in and day out, not the excitement of the big city, but in the seemingly mundane of the countryside. But if you asked them about it, I bet most would say that they wouldn’t have it any other way.