We know that the size of one’s church does not necessarily indicate how successful it is, but the average size of American congregations might surprise you.
In 2006, Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University, conducted a study in titled “American Congregations at the Beginning of the 21st Century” (National Congregations Study). According to the study, half of the churches surveyed in 2006 and 2007 had 75 people or fewer, and 90 percent had 350 people or fewer. I am certain that The Foursquare Church is no different from these churches.
Allow me to apply the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30, NKJV) to these statistics. I will interpret the servant with five talents as pastors who serve churches with 350 people or more, the servant with two talents as pastors who serve churches with 76 to 350 people, and the servant with one talent as pastors who serve churches with 75 or fewer people.
Some argue that the talents shouldn’t be interpreted as people because a talent has traditionally been understood as the abilities of the servants. However, the talents were given to the servants according to their abilities (v. 15), so the talents cannot be servants’ abilities. The talent is the precious property of the master.
When Jesus taught this parable, He was getting ready to return to heaven. As the man in the parable entrusted his property to each servant according to his ability, Jesus entrusted His people to us according to our abilities. Some have more than 350 people in their care, others between 76 and 350 people, and yet others serve 75 people or fewer.
Whether we are entrusted with more or fewer souls, the primary focus of our ministry should be reproducing His disciples and churches by what was given to us. We were sent to make disciples and reproduce churches.
In this parable, one thing that bothered me for a long time was the servant with one talent. Why did he bury the talent in the ground? Was he obsessed with comparing himself with other servants? Perhaps he was protesting by burying the talent? What a poor, poor servant!
Yet it is easy to sympathize with the servant with one talent because we can easily be like him. If we pastor small churches, we can make the same mistake of burying and hiding what God has entrusted to us. We need to understand that we are dealing with the souls of people, which are more precious than talents of gold.
I think that this parable teaches that, even if we have “one-talent” churches, we can also make disciples and plant churches. I have been serving a one-talent congregation, but, by the grace of God, we were able to plant three churches and raise five ministers in the past three years.
I pray that you will join me in focusing on being responsible with what has been entrusted to us instead of comparing ourselves with others. We have all been sent to do the Master’s kingdom work.
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