Leading a Small Church, Part 3

I want to pass along a story about Christ’s Church at Remmel, from a long-ago post about this small church that has enjoyed dramatic growth:

This rural Arkansas church of 170 has had 85 baptisms! And it did it through caring about its community.

Here’s how they tell their story on their website –

Although flourishing through most of the 20th century, this rural church of Christ found itself near collapse as the century wound to a close. Loss of local population and loss of interest had left the church with few kids and only a handful of adults. Should it go the way of so many other rural churches that had been allowed to slip peacefully into non-existence, or should it and could it be salvaged? We chose the latter, and God rescued us.

We had known for some time that some of what we were doing came more from tradition than from God. God had never said a word, for instance, about making the children sit still and be absolutely quiet while the preacher went on and on about something they couldn’t possibly understand. It was we, not God, who had come up with wearing our “Sunday Best” to church services, even though that placed a burden on some. It was our idea to sing “Amazing Grace” as if we’d just learned we had cancer, even though, God had always insisted we rejoice and be glad. The list goes on.

It’s different now that we’ve finally mustered the courage to try it more like we think God wants it. Kids are back in droves. Teenagers often led the way in turning control of our church back over to God. Additional seating had to be added in the auditorium and in classrooms. There are always visitors, even though the building is difficult to find. Children’s church is a popular choice for younger kids during preaching. Prayer has taken on an enormously greater role. Neckties are not only notrequired, they are rare.

Here are a few other comments from their FAQ section. They give a good feel for the personality of the congregation (most websites aren’t nearly as revealing).

What is the attitude of the Remmel Church toward other Protestant groups?

That may depend somewhat on which member you ask, but our general attitude is one of deep gratitude for the extraordinary reform efforts that produced these groups. We also truly regret the many harsh, hateful comments by members of churches of Christ in times past that caused hard feelings to exist to this day. We accept into membership of the Remmel Church, anyone who believes and has been baptized by immersion to obey God, regardless of their previous religious affiliation or who performed that baptism.

What would I be expected to do as a member of the Remmel Church?

Each of us has a responsibility to be of encouragement to others in the church, and to build up the church in any way we can. After all, the church is the “bride of Christ”, and He would certainly want her treated with the greatest respect and honor. A simple smile or friendly, “Hello”, can work wonders. A kind word or listening ear for someone with trouble always helps. You may learn to pray with someone who is struggling. You may be able to tell someone of Jesus and, in that way, participate in their salvation. But you will never be pressed to do what you are altogether uncomfortable doing. We are a family of God, and each one of us needs to have a part. It could be turning out the lights in the church building, or picking up trash outside. We are in constant need of teachers in children’s classes. The elders will help find a job that’s right for you. Being a part of a growing church is exciting, but it takes a lot of work. Jesus explained a great mystery when He showed us that greatness comes through serving others. You will be allowed to join in that blessing. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as the result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10).

What is the official name of the church in the Remmel community? Is it Remmel Church of Christ, as some road signs say, Christ’s Church at Remmel as the bulletin says, or Remmel Church as many members say?

This church, like congregations in the Bible, has no official name. Since there are no other religious groups in the community from which to distinguish ourselves, and because we prefer not to align with any denomination, we seem to be moving toward Remmel Church, but any of the designations mentioned in the question are fine.

Read the story about them in the Christian Chronicle. It’s a great one.


Here’s Jay’s guide to growing a small church in outline form:

1. Out with the old spirit

   a. Get rid of legalism

   b. Get rid of church politics

   c. Get rid of weak, ineffective leadership

   d. Get rid of the pride of going it alone

   e. Get rid of radical individualism (the scriptures would say stop being “stiff-necked”)

   f. Get rid of the housekeeping mindset

2. In with the new Spirit

   a. Teach grace, the Spirit, and the Story (see the “Blue Parakeet” series)

   b. Teach submission to Christ and selflessness. Let 1 Cor 13 and Rom 12 and the Sermon on the Mount define your congregation. Be known in the community as people united in love for Jesus and each other.

   c. Lead the church as though it were a church plant. Appoint elders when God brings you leaders with the gifts and maturity to shepherd the church, but no sooner. Only give leadership to those gifted by God to lead.

   d. Affiliate with a church planting organization that provides training and support. Even gifted leaders need training.

   e. Build a team spirit, where the church acts and serves as a whole.

   f. Be about God’s mission. Serve each other and serve those in need around you. Be people of compassion. 

(Mat 5:16)  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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One Response to Leading a Small Church, Part 3

  1. Jack Exum Jr says:

    This is good Jay. Thanks

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