Should Young Pastors Prefer a Huge or Small Church?
S uppose a young, ambitious, seminary-trained, godly pastor was given the choice between a large church as well as a small church as their first charge. Which should this individual prefer? Which should he prioritize? Theodore Cuyler took about this question in his book How To Be a Pastor which was created in the early twentieth one hundred year. His answer is straightforward, his reasoning compelling. It is worth looking at today.
“I answer automatically, the small church. ” He or she minces no words generally there, does he? He offers a three-pronged defense of their position.
The first prong is actually the example of church background. He shows that some of the excellent pastors have had small beginnings—Chalmers in little Kilmany, Guthrie in humble Arbirot, McCheyne in a small community within Dundee. Cuyler himself, though during the time pastoring one of the largest Presbyterian churches in America, had begun in the most humble situations. There is good historical support to his position.
The 2nd prong reminds the prospective pastor of the value of person souls, for a small charge gives new ministers a better opportunity to study individuals. Because his church will be made up of fewer people, he will be able to give sufficient time and attention to each of them. “The many profitable study for every minister, next to his Bible, is certainly human character, ” Cuyler insists. “The misfortune with many of our young ministers nowadays is that they know more about books than about human nature. ” If that was real in Cuyler’s time, it is certainly equally true today. There are plenty of young pastors who understand a lot about doctrine and principles of leadership, but who have little knowledge of individuals, their difficulties, their complexities. In a small church a pastor will be able to get to know—to actually know—his people and the associated with each and every soul. Where within a big city church he might preach to anonymous world, in a small country church he will preach to well-known people. “A crowd is an uplifting object for me to preach to; an individual soul brought into close and living contact is an inspiring personage in order to preach to me. ”
The 3rd prong of his discussion is that a small charge will offer a novice more uninterrupted time to study and think. Even though there are exceptions, he insists that little great function comes from huge pastorates. He points to Edwards, Bunyan, and Hodge, none of who could have prepared their excellent works of theology acquired they been pastoring big city churches with all the related responsibility. Those who do flourish in large churches often do so because of the foundation laid in their earlier, quieter years of ministry. “A young minister must learn the use of his tools. He must learn how to think, and how to put his thoughts into the most effective shape. ” While experience may eventually allow him to prepare great sermons in minimal time, that will only be possible when, in the early years, he is extremely persistent in studying the Holy bible and in pursuing the art and craft of preaching. “A small church can afford him the best opportunity to lay good, broad, solid foundations by deep yoga, deep study of the Word and of fertilizing books, and deep study of human being nature. ”
With the benefit of a long ministry behind him, Cuyler offers encouragement towards the young and ambitious who also may be tempted to think they could do the greatest good where they can stand before the finest congregations.
Young brethren, if you know if you are well off, do not itch for a call to a huge town and do not lose a single golden hour that you may certainly be spending in some modest little corner of the Master’s vast vineyard. If you have bread to put into your mouths, and nutritious books to study, and underworld souls to win to get Christ, be thankful and buckle to your work. Period enough to shoulder up the bullock when you have learned to hold the calf. Bend your whole undivided strength upon your initial charge, even if it does not include over one hundred precious spirits; and remember that a single soul for whom Jesus passed away, is a tremendous trust.
In one more of Cuyler’s discourses he returns to this topic, though only briefly, and says, “My ministry began in a really small church. For that I am thankful. Let no youthful minister covet a large parish at the outset. The particular clock that is not content to hit one will never strike twelve. ”
And so, youthful pastor, are you content to strike one? Are you willing to minister in obscurity where you can come to understand what it is to pastor precious souls, where you can lay a firm basis of knowledge and skill, where one can finish the preparation that will seminary merely began? Are you willing to be faithful in little before expecting you will prove faithful in much?