One of the important facts regarding the churches who choose to cooperate within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) is that most congregations would be considered smaller membership churches. Since the definition of what constitutes a smaller membership church is not concretely defined, I will leave the definition up to others’ discretion. With over 1500 churches composing the ABSC, approximately 1,200 of those churches average less than 100 in Sunday School/small group attendance. Around 750 of those churches average less than 50 in Sunday School/small group in attendance.
The Kingdom value of the smaller membership churches cannot be overstated. Smaller membership churches must be viewed as a Gospel mission station that reaches an area, demographic or people group that may otherwise be underserved. They ensure we have local congregations and a Gospel witness in every nook and corner in Arkansas.
What small membership churches may lack in buildings and staff, many of them more than make up in the areas of relationships, care and personal ministry.
My experience is that a large percentage of smaller membership church pastors are highly gifted with skill sets and spiritual gifts that perfectly match their calling. Simply put, those pastors serve those churches because they have received a high calling from God to serve there.
The ABSC staff and I regularly visit smaller membership churches where the power of God is very strong in the church. Personally, I served smaller membership churches for approximately 10 years, with six years as a bi-vocational (or dual career) pastor. We experienced periods of incredible revival, movements of God and salvation of some of the most radical unchurched people. The associational missionary was the closest denominational person to me and always of valuable assistance. Therein lies one of the great values of associations and associational missionaries.
I am deeply grateful to God for the work and value of smaller membership churches in Arkansas!