KEYWORDS: change, small church, vibrant
Rev. Steve Whitney, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in West Sacramento, spoke at the Small Church Luncheon at the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
“There are lots of mega-churches here in California,” said the [Rev. Whitney], “and for them changing is like steering an ocean-liner — a long, slow process.”
But small churches, he said, “are like speedboats, able to change fast and adapt quickly.” And in transitional communities like his, Whitney added, “‘speedboat ministry’ is much closer to the biblical model of immediately responding to immediate needs of individuals.”
Taking the gospel “to the ends of the earth” can be a daunting challenge for small churches — defined as having weekly worship attendance of 100 or less — Whitney said. “But Acts 2 talks of a small community of believers experiencing the rush of the Holy Spirit and then extraordinary power. Our God is not a God of numbers but of individualized care of God’s children and we’re very good at that,” he said.
Trinity Church, a congregation forced into major transition when a freeway rerouted traffic that used to flow through the community, has in the last several years reached out into its rapidly changing neighborhood with programs for children, transients and local public schools. The result
has been renewed vitality and growth.
“Our ministry is a person-by-person, life-by-life ‘speedboat ministry’ powered by the Holy Spirit,” Whitney said. “Obviously this is a God thing — when we open up to God, the Holy Spirit shows up and amazing things happen,” he said.