Small Is Beautiful

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Small Is Beautiful

Yesterday I spoke at our little church on Orcas Island about Jesus comparison of the kingdom of God to a mustard seed and leaven. Small is beautiful, the power of one, growth despite obstacles, serving outsiders (birds in the tree) and transformative (leaven),

On the small is beautiful point I mentioned E.F. Schumacher, the British economist who wrote, “Small is Beautiful” saying “man is small, so small is beautiful.” This sweet elevation of small’s value by virtue of association with man is anthropic as it should be. Created in God’s image humans are just a little lower than angels said the Psalmist.

I mentioned that I learned small is beautiful to God when my pastor father moved us from Bly, a small logging town in Southern Oregon, to Fullerton in Southern California.

The church there consisted of 13 people who were not the movers and shakers of the community. Because they were older I added, “they weren’t moving and they definitely weren’t shaking.”

As a young kid even I could recognize this small start was beautiful to God because the church was a loving, joyful fellowship. As a result the little church grew bigger. At least four young men and women became missionaries or pastors as a result of their experience in that church. Each told me they never again experienced the warmth and goodness found there.

Later that afternoon I called my dad to verify my story and to inquire about those 13 people.

He corrected me on one point ~ “as older people, it is true,” he said, “they weren’t moving, but they certainly were shaking!”

He also said when people asked him about the memorable success of that venture he said two things.

1) “We didn’t know what we were doing and didn’t know we didn’t know what we were doing.”
2) “That church had a lot of love and not a lot of ego.”

That seems to me a pretty good prescription for a healthy happy community.

Jesus told his followers to deny themselves (not a lot of ego) and issued a new commandment that they love one another; he was setting a tone and expectation for local beachheads of citizens in the kingdom of God.

His call to humility and dependence on the Holy Spirit meant our reliance would be on God not on “knowing what we are doing.”

I must confess I am disinterested in conferences where guru pastors explain how other churches can experience the “success” they are experiencing.

First, we are badly confused if we assume because a church is large, it is healthy.

Second, a local church should be an organic movement unique to its local context.

Finally, when we think we know what we are doing, we might be tempted to displace our reliance on God with a reliance on imported techniques and tactics.

Trust me, there is no substitute for God’s innovative, creative power released through people with a lot of love and not a lot of ego, who don’t know what they are doing and don’t know they don’t know what they are doing.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in April 6, 2009 by | No Comments »

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