In the July/August edition of Outreach Magazine, there is an article that comprises the testimonies of a few well-known pastors who were influenced by a small-membership church. With the exception of one, all of the testimonies shared how they engaged in a small church while in college. I enjoyed the article and testimonies, and was reminded of my own small church roots.
My Only Roots were Small Church Roots
I grew up in the small town of Yoakum, Texas; a town of 5,000 people in south central Texas, 90 minutes from the cities of San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Corpus Christi. We lived for Friday Night Lights and church.
Mom and Dad were pillars in our small church. In fact, they helped build our little church building. I remember after Dad had worked long hours in his job as a door to door salesman, Mom after getting home from work, would make supper and we would take it to Dad at the church. I remember sitting on the floor, watching Dad eat as he paused from stapling in ceiling tiles. Church was their life! Beyond the Lord, His church, and family, we did little to nothing except Friday Night Lights.
My Small Home Church was Really Small
My home church was the Faith Baptist Church. We would touch about thirty to forty people weekly. Periodically, we might even crawl above forty or fifty people, but soon would subside to our normal attendance. How do I remember all of that? It’s simple. Those numbers were posted weekly on the Sunday School Attendance Board that was placed in the small Worship Center that Dad helped build.
I remember vividly, how I thought a large church was the church in town that touched as many as two hundred people on Sunday. This is all I knew. When I left for college and someone asked me if I ever had the opportunity to pastor a church, where would I want to go? I told them, “If I could one day come back and pastor that large church, it would be great.” Honestly, it was pretty well the largest church I knew about. Size did not equal status to me.
My Small Home Church was So Small
Yes, I realize many would be skeptical as they read of my small church roots. Most would not imagine this being my past, but I have testified about it for years. Hey, you want to insure I know how small it was?
My small home church was so small that:
- Anyone could share their testimony whenever they wanted.
- Anyone could suggest their favorite hymn and it would be sung.
- Monthly business meetings were held on Wednesday nights with the following “King James Version” order:
- Minutes of the previous meeting read aloud
- Treasurer’s Report, giving publicly each monthly expense
- Old Business and yes, some of it was very old
- New Business, of which most was Old Business, that still needed to be settled, OR ideas a person thought we ought to consider doing, and even public airing of burdens and even grievances.
- Sunday nights the preacher did not “feel led” to preach, but opened it up for “testimonies. This usually involved the same people saying the same thing, testifying about their Lord.
- Wednesday night Prayer Meetings seemed endless, involving prayer requests and updates, spoken requests and “unspoken requests” (which I still do not understand) as well as a season of prayer that seemed like an eternity for those of us who were kids.
- Our Pastor usually transitioned every 18-30 months.
- We went to Sunday School, Worship, had the Preacher over for lunch, (NOT for Lunch) took a quick nap, then returned for Training Union and Sunday Night Worship.
- We went to someone’s home each Sunday night after church or had people at our home, usually for popcorn and coke, occasionally something like a cake leftover from lunch.
- I led worship as a young teenager and once I became a Christian and called to ministry, I preached repeatedly through my young ministry years.
- I was the ONLY student in the Sunday School class and in Training Union, both of which were taught by the same teacher.
Don’t think I don’t understand how some small churches operate. These are my roots.
Three Powerful Lessons My Small Church Roots Taught Me
My roots were so deep in a small church that most lessons I learned about the Christian life and church, I learned in that environment. Today, I remember more about their value than I knew then. Here are three powerful lessons I am so grateful I learned in my small church roots.
Lesson #1: The Bible is the Word of God
In our small church, the Bible was not questioned. We knew the Bible was the Word of God, completely infallible and without error.
Lesson #2: The Priority of the Local Church
There was never a debate about the priority of our church. We were taught that growing up and Dad and Mom did not tolerate anything other than this. I was engaged in church, regardless of my desire or schedule.
Lesson #3: The Value of Personal Evangelism
Every Tuesday night I was at church visitation. Many times I went with my Pastor or other church leaders who taught me how to lead people to Christ.
Personal evangelism was expected in my church, even though we were small in membership and attendance. Looking back, it might seem abnormal that a small church was so focused on personal evangelism. But as a teenager, I knew God wanted to use me to win others to Christ.
These are my roots and I am so grateful for them. They shaped my life and even my vision. Today, I love the opportunity to assist or engage any small church or her pastor. Today, I stand grateful to God for the Faith Baptist Church, which later merged with another church, a Hispanic church. My sister, Linda, serves full-time as their Church Secretary.
1000 Thank Yous, God, For My Small Church Roots,
Ronnie W. Floyd
Each of these serves as reasons Pastors do not make physical fitness a part of their day. There seems to be a major disconnect among our profession regarding the importance of our physical condition.
It is not my intention to create guilt, but motivation. I’m not trying to heap added pressure upon your life along with what you already deal with daily.
My purpose is to encourage you to take some kind of physical action to care for your health. I want to challenge you to understand that this is connected to your walk with Christ, and will help you relieve major stress on a daily basis. And very importantly, I want to impress upon you how much your testimony for Jesus can be enhanced by how you take care of your body.
A Personal Testimony
In my younger years, I was neglectful of my physical condition. I was going to school, not sleeping much, working long hours, and parenting young children. Physical fitness was just not a priority. Sadly, eating was a major priority. Eating is the accepted vice of most ministers. Therefore, when these combined, at one point in my earliest ministry, I blew up to 207 pounds.
One day, it all changed. I began a major commitment to my physical condition. I started walking daily. Years later, I began running some and working out with weights. I was a sprinter in high school, not a distance runner, so running never appealed to me at all. However, for the past fifteen years and more, I have become a consistent runner. Oh, not a true runner, more of a jogger. Anyone that has ever gone with me knows I will probably not outrun them, but I may outlast them.
Presently, I run an hour or so a day, four to five days a week. Additionally, I work out with a trainer for one or two days a week, focusing on weight training. This commitment is very important in my life. Even on Sunday mornings, I jog on the treadmill for an hour. I go over my message for the day, working through mastering it before delivering it.
I am convinced that I could not do what I do – with my work load and life’s pressure – without this strong commitment to running and weight training. Caring for my body is very important, not only for the quality of my health, but the management of my responsibilities.
If you have read previously concerning my morning schedule, you will see that I exercise in the morning. Delayed exercise and fitness usually results in no exercise and fitness. This is why I do it in the mornings.
Reasons I Believe In Exercise and Fitness
Let me share some reasons why I believe in exercise and fitness in my life.
Perhaps this will motivate you or encourage you in some way.
Taking care of your body is biblical
Yes, I know what the Scripture says in 1 Timothy 4:8,
For training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way….
Without question, spiritual fitness is much more important than physical fitness; however, they need to be friends and companions, not enemies and competitors. Life is about priorities. I promise you, my #1 priority is my personal walk and devotion to Jesus Christ. Yet, this does not keep me from caring for my body.
The Scripture also says in 1 Corinthians 6:19,
Don’t you know your body is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, who you have from God? You are not your own.
Therefore, if God lives in us, then we need to take care of our bodies, which is the temple and dwelling place of God in our lives. We are body, soul, and spirit according to the Bible. Therefore, taking care of your body is biblical.
Exercising your body is your spiritual service to God
Surely Pastor, you have quoted or spoken from Colossians 3:17 in your teaching ministry. It says,
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Therefore, offer even your exercise and fitness as a spiritual service to God, bringing Him glory as you do it. While most of the time it is not fun, it is necessary to improve your health and the conditioning of your body. In turn, it will be an asset to the quality of your life and service to God.
Benefits of Exercise and Fitness
Let me give you these things for consideration.
Benefit #1: Exercise and fitness increases the probability of my body being in better shape, which in turn should give me a much greater ability to serve the Lord now and longer in life.
Benefit #2: Exercise and fitness provide me opportunities to grow in my personal faith, as I use this time daily to have others pour into my life. Technology permits me to listen to others teach me, preach to me, and mentor me on matters of life, ministry, and leadership while I exercise. Therefore, this is not just futile physical exercise to me, but more deeply and importantly, moments to practice and grow in godliness. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have grown the last two to three years by adding this practice to my exercise and fitness. In any given week, I may listen to four or five hours of great mentorship. If I can do this while working out, you can do this.
Benefit #3: Exercise and fitness greatly reduces my stress level. I am convinced that daily exercise and fitness helps me view life in a more positive manner, all because I am reducing stress. Personally, I exercise five to six days a week. I need it physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Benefit #4: Exercise and fitness improves my attitude. Pastors deal with negativity daily. People pour their stuff upon us and when we do not take it to God in prayer and manage it personally, it affects our attitude negatively. Therefore, I promise you, exercise and fitness improves your attitude.
Pastor, here are my final challenges to you about exercise and fitness.
- Start now – do something.
- Get it done in the morning.
- Be consistent five days a week.
I read a few days ago that John Wesley stated at age 78, “By God’s blessing, I’m the same I was at 28, chiefly by constant exercise and preaching morning and evening.”
That’s tremendously encouraging to me, and I hope to you as well.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd