By Peter Meier | December 1, 2016
The favorite Christmas Carol celebrates the Little Town of Bethlehem. It was from this little town that God brought about the greatest miracle of all time – the Incarnation. In this Little Town, God became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
The United States is full of little towns like Bethlehem. Many of them feel forgotten, “the least” among cites. In these little towns there are perhaps one or more churches. Often these churches are a focal point in the community, a gathering place, a sign of perseverance, a place of unchanging values and hope.
From these little towns and from their churches, God continues to be about His work of reconciliation, reclaiming the lost, serving the least and the lowest along with the leaders and the rulers.
At Christmas of all times, we remember that God is the champion of the “small things.” From the least of all the clans of Judah, from a lowly cattle trough, through a poor carpenter and his young wife, God is doing His work. From a smooth small stone in a shepherd boy’s sling, in a bit of yeast in a batch of flour, in the smallest mustard seed which grows to become the nesting place of many birds, God is at work. From a cup of cold water given to a little child, to the widow’s mite, God uses the little things of this world for His purposes. From two small fish and five loaves to twelve disciples, God multiplies His kingdom far beyond what the average eye can see or even imagine.
From a tiny infant born in a manger, God is doing an amazing, miraculous work.
What could God do in every little town, through every little congregation (and every large congregation)? What could God do through you?
God calls His people, from little towns to world-class cities, to be His witnesses, to make disciples who make more disciples. He calls His people to “go” – to get out into their communities and neighborhoods, to get out into their schools and workplaces, to partner with Him in His mission, to seek and to save the lost. You don’t need a theological education or degree; just love Jesus and live life as His disciple.
Let’s be careful not to despise the little things which our Great God has chosen to use for Kingdom expansion. From little towns and small churches, from rural and farming communities, through immigrant men and women, and through those who have little of this world’s wealth, God works through personal relationships to accomplish His great mission. His Word and Sacraments bring about their intended impact in the lives of men and women, boys and girls in every corner of every county.
Church multiplication begins with the making of disciples, one at a time. These disciples make more disciples who make still more disciples. Out of one, many! And from many, a movement. Disciples gather in groups of disciples, large and small. These groups grow strong and healthy using the small, but mighty means God Himself has given – the Word and Sacraments. And then… they multiply! That’s what God designed them to do. And that’s how God intends to accomplish His mission.
God’s big idea is really quite simple. In a little town, God sent a tiny baby to save the world. He continues to use disciples from every little town and every little neighborhood to do His mighty work.
How silently, how silently | The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts | The blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear His coming | But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him still | The dear Christ enters in.
One at a time. In your family. In your town
Questions for Discussion
1. What are some of the “despised things” of this world that you have seen God use to accomplish His mighty work?
2. How might God use your church, large or small, to share His gifts of peace and joy, life and salvation?
3. What opportunities exist in your town or neighborhood to partner with God in His work of disciple-making? Don’t overlook the small things God can use!
4. Why is the thought, “You can’t have much of an impact if you’re small” a satanic lie? Why might Satan want you and others to believe that?
5. Did God establish size qualifications to being fruitful and multiplying (Genesis 1:28)? Why might some churches not grow and multiply?
6. Read Matthew 16:18. Whose work is church multiplication? Why is this so important to remember?
Resources You Can Use
While not a religious book, Hillbilly Elegy, Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance, opens eyes and minds to what’s going on in small towns and rural communities today. A personal and passionate analysis of a culture in crisis.
Rural Revival: Growing Churches in Shrinking Communities by W. Scott Moore, offers hope and help for rural and small town congregations.
Small Town Jesus, Donnie Griggs. Small towns are big mission fields that are almost totally neglected by modern church planters. Here is a call to take the gospel everywhere, big or small, because that’s what Jesus told us to do.
Mission Moments is the e-newsletter sent by the Center for U.S. Missions to bring information and encouragement to all who desire to share God's great love in Jesus Christ with others. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your congregation or organization. Please credit the author and the Center for United States Missions. For more information contact the Center at (952)-221-0362, or visit our website: www.c4usm.org
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