#BestOf2013: You Can Overcome Small Church Discouragements

Smiling pothole coverSometimes the most dangerous threat to the truth is not a lie, it’s a lesser truth.

Lies are usually easy to spot, but lesser truths are harder because …well… they’re still true.

At virtually every moment of our lives, a greater truth and a lesser truth are battling for our heart. The problem is that the lesser truth is usually louder, stronger and more urgent.

One of the most challenging calls of leadership is to live to the greater truth and, by our example, call others to do the same.

Greater truths can be especially hard to see when you pastor a Small Church because there are fewer layers (usually no layers) between you and the lesser truths.

This article was originally posted on January 25, 2013, when we had less than 10% of today’s readers. I think it’s worth a second (or first) look as one of the overlooked #BestOf2013.


Two Truths: An Example

For example, you walk into church on Sunday, feeling great about the day ahead, only to be accosted by an angry church member about a trivial problem, two minutes before the service starts.

As you delicately ease your way out of that encounter and step up to speak, you have a choice:

1. Live to the obvious, immediate, lesser truth. That a church member is angry at you – and carry that into your message and out to the congregation, in emotion and spirit, if not in words.

2. Live to the greater truth. That God, knowing this church member would be angry at you, gave you a message of hope to share, maybe be as much for you as for the congregation. 

This is not just wishful thinking, positive affirmation or a mind-game. It’s choosing to see a deeper reality. People of faith don’t deny reality. They choose to see a greater truth behind the immediate truth.


But How?

OK, fine. Living to the greater truth sounds like a good idea. But how does someone actually pull it off in the real world?

Usually from the outside in. Here’s an example.

Years ago, there was an older lady who lived on my way to and from church. She couldn’t drive, so I would pick her up and drop her off every Sunday. One week, on the drive home, she told me a painful truth – it seems that when I wasn’t paying attention to it, my face would carry a scowl that could frighten a pitbull. And if things hadn’t gone well in church that day, it looked like a pitbull caught in a bear trap.

For a few moments, I was upset at her. Then I realized she had done me a favor. I could now fix a problem I hadn’t even been aware of.

I had a choice. To live to one of two truths.

Lesser Truth: Some Sundays don’t go well.

Greater Truth: I’m privileged to serve a great God and a great church, including a plain-spoken old lady who loved me enough to tell me the truth on the drive home from church, not on the drive to church, God bless her. (I miss you, Blanche).

I chose to live to the greater truth. How? I became more conscious of slapping a smile on my face whenever I was in church. No matter what.

And I mean slapping it on. At first, it felt fake. Like I was acting.

In reality, I was acting. But I wasn’t being fake. I was happy to be in church. That was my greater reality. I lived to that greater reality by forcing my face to act like it.

After a while, my face started affecting my emotions. The smile on the outside became a smile on the inside. Because it was based on a deeper truth, not a phony pretense, it became more natural and automatic, even when things went bad. I’m still not a big grinner, but now there are very few times when I need to force a scowl off my face – even when the lesser truth isn’t going well.

No, not all problems are as simple as slapping a smile on. I’m not naïve. But I am a realist. I know it worked.


Let’s Live It

]When a lesser truth makes itself known, it is usually with the intent of distracting us from a greater truth.

Don’t let it win.

Here are some battles between lesser and greater truths that many Small Church pastors face. Do any of these sound familiar?


Lesser Truth: Money is tight.

Greater Truth: My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Live to the greater truth.


Lesser Truth: A megachurch just built a state-of-the-art facility across the street.

Greater Truth: They’re our partners in ministry, not our competitors.

Live to the greater truth.


Lesser Truth: A couple just left the church, complaining that they’re “not being fed”. (Yeah, that never gets old.)

Greater Truth: The rest of the church supports you. They’re being fed and they’re learning to feed others.

Live to the greater truth.


Lesser Truth: My church is small.

Greater Truth: A Small Church pastor is a wonderful thing to be.

Live to the greater truth.


So what do you think? Are there greater and lesser truths you’ve been battling?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

(Smiley Manhole Cover photo from ETMC2 • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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