I was privileged to grow up in a small church. There was no music group, no rapid growth, some teens but not a huge peer group. But what there was in the church was a gospel generosity that was healthy and outward looking and consistently gave away people to mission and ministry elsewhere. As I look back on that church, not perfect by a large stretch of the imagination, that healthy generosity is what really stands out for me. It is no surprise that for a small church it has produced a disproportionate number of pastors who lead churches elsewhere across the country.
It is only as we planted a small church and as we labour in it where the growth is slow that I now realise how amazing that gospel generosity really was. The temptation as a church and as a church leader is to hoard people, especially good people, especially if you are situated in an area without a regular influx of newcomers. It is immensely costly to give away your people to other ministries and other churches. It feels painful and costly and can make something that is already fragile feel even more so.
In the books they tell you that such generosity provides an opportunity for someone else to step up, and yes it does, but let's be honest, off the page, that doesn't always (often) happen. But I am convinced that gospel generosity is right. As I read Acts I'm struck again by the generosity of the church in Antioch in who they send out on mission, it's not the developing leaders, it's not the people with potential, it is key leaders. The challenge as I read that is to have that same gospel generosity in the way I think about church and those God has given us to disciple.
The temptation is to hoard. To focus on our needs. But we are called to a bigger focus, a kingdom focus. It is costly to train people up and send them out. It is costly for the pastor and for the church. It is particularly so for a small church but if we get the big vision of need and kingdom and see ourselves as stewards how can we not. It's a good question to ask ourselves as churches and as leaders - are we a hoarder or are we healthy?