Sunday, July 30, 2006

Newsletter: Influential Churches

Dr. John Vaughan, a researcher and consultant to churches, has recently compiled a list of the fifty most influential Protestant churches in America. I’m sorry to tell you that First Presbyterian Church of Vernon did not make the first fifty. In fact, none of the churches in Vernon did. The list is a "who’s who" of mega-churches in growing metropolitan areas. To even be considered for the list, a church had to have more than 2,000 in weekly attendance. Dr. Vaughan compiled this list based on the polling of the pastors from these same mega-churches.

I don’t want to be considered as unappreciative of the hard work that went into the list, but it seems that the results were bound to be skewed. Perhaps if our congregation had made the list, I would feel differently, but it seems that Dr. Vaughan had a particular understanding of "influential." Don’t get me wrong. There are faithful congregations up and down that list. Mega-churches have made and will continue to make a huge impact on the landscape of American Christianity. Still, I wish Dr.Vaughan had asked me what I thought were the most "influential" churches in America.

Now, granted I’m biased. So I would list our congregation at the top of the list. Then I would list Presbyterian churches in Irving, Texas, in Lexington, Indiana, and in Waynesburg, Malvern, Carrollton, Loudonville, and Berea, Ohio. I would also list a Methodist church in Diboll, Texas, a Southern Baptist church near Elaine, Arkansas, a Nazarene church outside of Houston, another Nazarene Church in Times Square, a Methodist church in Cordele, Georgia, and a couple of Roman Catholic churches in New Jersey and Ohio. This is not a complete list, but you can see that my list is varied. These congregations are large and small. They have nothing in common except one thing. They have all made a personal impact on me or the people I love.

When the disciples argued about who was the greatest, Jesus said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35). We are the most influential when we serve one another. Staying up all night with a friend in need, providing a meal, or teaching a Sunday school class that no one else will are tangible ways we influence the world for the gospel. The measurement of influence is not attendance, size or budget. Rather, real influence is faithfulness. Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed (Matthew 13:31). Starting small and inconsequential, its impact is greater than you can possibly imagine.

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