This obsession with big may be more true in Texas than anywhere else in the country, but generally we Americans love big and splashy. The majority of the world sees the size of our homes and our vehicles and are amazed. They are much larger than what people typically expect in the rest of the world. We like having a big military that can do big things. Make no mistake, while other nations may have large armies, no other military force on the planet can come close to having the kind of impact American forces can make pretty much anywhere in the world. Shock and awe indeed. Americans like big shows, big riches…and big churches. It is pretty much a foregone conclusion among so much of the church in this country that when a ministry becomes large God is blessing it. We want to see God do something visibly big and impressive, and megachurches seem to fit that bill. They have so much in the way of resources and people and as a result can do so many impressive things. Obviously that’s where God is working most, right?
It is important to think about how God has so often worked in this world. Yes, he has most certainly done some “big” things. Creation of a nearly limitless universe would be one. The parting of the Red Sea in Exodus was certainly another impressive feat. Must have been quite a sight. Definitely a real attention-getter. The whole manna in the wilderness thing wasn’t bad either. But such things have not typically been God’s modus operandi. His biggest action in human history, by far, came when he revealed himself by becoming a man. And how did he do that? The American way would likely have been to have him arrive with a spectacular show, have his glory blow people away and have him cow every person on the planet with his power. God’s way was to enter the world as an infant. He came as an utterly helpless baby born to an anonymous and unimportant couple in a relatively insignificant backwater of the Roman Empire. Jesus did some astounding things during his sojourn on the planet, but frankly the powers of the world at that time were totally unaware of him. The overwhelming majority of the world knew nothing of Jesus. Secular history has scant record of his existence because it was too small to be noticed. Yes, but he conquered death! How much bigger can you get? True, that was huge, but even that event was witnessed by a relatively small number of people. In Acts 1:15 Luke tells us in the early going not long after Jesus left Peter stood up among the believers and that the group numbered about 120. There were likely more believers scattered around in other places, but that’s not exactly an overwhelming number of people for the Son of God to have gathered.
One passage of Scripture that I love is in 1 Kings 19. Elijah, the great prophet, had just had his BIG victory over the prophets of Baal. This was more like it. He thought it was the beginning of a BIG movement and he was excited. It didn’t happen. Instead he found himself on the run from Jezebel, who wanted to have him killed. It seemed like nothing had changed. The victory had turned to a fizzle. He sulked out in the wilderness. God showed up. There was a hurricane force wind that tore the landscape apart. It was BIG. This was more like what Elijah wanted. “But the Lord was not in the wind.” Then there was an earthquake. Yeah, God was shaking things up, right? This was BIG! “But the Lord was not in the earthquake.” Ditto the fire that came after that. “After the fire came a gentle whisper.” Well, a gentle whisper’s not going to impress anybody. No, it’s not. But that’s how God chose to speak. It’s how he so often speaks and works – in a quiet, almost unobtrusive, even small way.
We are in a spiritual war. It is common to think that what God is going to do is a shock and awe campaign. It will be like the invasion of Europe back in 1944. That action involved 5,000 ships, 11,000 aircraft and 175,000 men. Now that was BIG. But that is not how the kingdom of God actually works in this world most of the time. We are a lot more like an insurgency than we are like a big invasion. An insurgency involves mostly the actions of small groups of fighters infiltrating a society. That is really how the church has been most effective throughout history. The reason is that lives are mostly impacted at the personal level. The problem with the fascination with big is that it can easily devalue the importance of one person, or of a small group of people. A single person or a handful of people can make an enormous difference in another person’s life. Few people have ever really felt that their lives have been changed through being loved by a large group. Huge numbers of people have been impacted through being loved by one person, or by a small group of people.
There are thousands of people who have come to Christ through the efforts of some of the huge churches in our nation. I think that’s terrific. I pray that those efforts continue to bear fruit. But I also pray that all of us in the body of Christ remember that most ministry happens at a personal level. We must remember that the seemingly insignificant contributions that each of us can make in our daily lives as we seek to love and serve other people are huge. I pray that our church, though it certainly is not large, will remember that we have the Spirit of Jesus, and because of that we have unlimited power to make a difference in this world, regardless of our size. And I pray that each one of us, in his or her own way, be it ever so small, is making a difference, one day at a time, one person at a time.