When You’re Weary, Feelin’ Small . . .

What if God means for most of us to work small?

There’s something about the nature of humans that draws us to think that bigger is better. Big sky. Big ocean. Big dreams. Big sales. Big business. Big ministries.

In our thinking, if we can do something well, it makes sense that we should do it in front of or to more people. We are always seeking a larger audience, a greater stage, a wider reach, a broader scope. But what if, like so many other things, we’ve got that twisted up and backward from God’s plan for us?

God could have chosen to send His son into the world at any time in our human development. Don’t you just wonder why He chose such a low-tech era in which to deliver the biggest news in all of history? Doesn’t it seem a clumsy way to spread the gospel – entrusting it person-to-person along dusty, sandal-trod camel-dunged roads in an age well before cell phones, tweets and instant messages? Does anyone else wonder if He was also throwing in a lesson about mass-marketing?

I’ve often wondered about this but hesitated to write about it because it seems so self-serving. I’m pretty small potatoes. I’ve had some publishing success but it’s definitely small time. I live in the smallest state in the union, attended a small Christian college, worship in a small church and have raised a small family. I’ve taught teen Sunday school class and women’s Bible studies for nearly thirty years but each group was always small. Only a small number of people will read this post.

So, maybe I’m meant to be small potatoes and writing this just makes me feel good.

But I’m not alone.

The people who’ve had the greatest influence on my life will most likely never be famous. There are ministers and Sunday school teachers around the world who are creative, engaging and Godly but who will never publish best-selling books or have video ministries on You Tube. There are individuals gifted musically who bless those around them but will never win American Idol or see their CD win a Grammy. There are artists whose works hang, not in museums but on the walls of their children’s bedrooms or as murals in church nurseries. There are magnificently gifted teachers who will not win any greater rewards than seeing the lights go on in their students’ minds. You could say they’re all small time and you’d be right but by saying they are small time you are saying nothing about their quality, their excellence or God’s blessing on the influence of their work.

Often we measure God’s blessing on a work or ministry by the number of people it reaches. We live in an age of unprecedented technological ability to reach great numbers of people but is bigger always better and more blessed?

It feels like it is. And big IS good. God is big. The world is big and we need to be willing to think big and take big risks to reach everyone with the message of Jesus but is big everything? Is it the best or only measure of God’s blessing on a work? I don’t think so.

I’m finally encouraged to write about this because of an interview in Leadership magazine this month with Rob Bell. Rob is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He’s authored books but is most famous for his NOOMA video teaching series. In the interview, Rob shares his concern that video ministry may have a dark side. Powerful and capable of reaching a wide-audience, on the one hand, but Bell is concerned about the future of disciples produced through mass videos. Practicing and applying a Christ-like life requires relationships that are up close and personal – not generally what we develop sitting in the dark before a video screen.

This Christian life still comes down to one-on-one discipleship.

It’s telling that with the power of Google earth at our fingertips, capable of letting us view anywhere on the planet, most of us are only interested in locating the satellite view of our own homes.

What if we were meant to work small?

What if not every beautiful voice was intended to be enjoyed by a world-wide audience? What if every magnificent story was not planned to be a best-seller? What if every Holy Spirit powered sermon was not meant to be preached to thousands? What if every work of art was not designed for the masses?

If you put a brown hard-shelled centipede from your garden under a microscope, you will see that there are actually intricate multi-colored designs on its back. We are created in the image of an artist who creates for the pleasure of creating. How much of His work is done on a small scale and yet it bears His mark, His excellence, His loving fingerprint, His best?

Do you worry because your work is small? I do, sometimes. But when I settle my mind before God, He reminds me that I often fret about the wrong things. I should be concerned that my work is for Him. I should be concerned that my work is faithful, true, excellent and inspired by a life powered by the Holy Spirit. I should be less concerned about the size of my audience and more concerned about the size of my heart and the scope of my faith.

I only seek for MORE because I fail to appreciate the inestimable value of ONE soul.

I love these lines from a poem by Richard Wilbur called Two Voices in a Meadow: A Milkweed “Anonymous as cherubs over the crib of God, White seeds are floating out of my burst pod. What power had I before I learned to yield? Shatter me, great wind: I shall possess the field.”

Some of us are called to world-wide audiences and others of us are called to smaller numbers but certainly not lesser ministries, not lesser souls.

For me, the guiding lights of scripture are Paul’s admonition to do nothing from selfish ambition and Jesus’ words in John 12: “Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

We should not measure God’s blessing or the value of a single work by its size or scope but by its faithfulness to Jesus and by the purity of its truth. Some are called to work big and others are called to work small and all are called to work for Christ.


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19 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Andrea says:

    AMEN Sister!! Sometimes/lots of times, GOD chooses the lowliest to do HIS work.
    Hugs, andrea

  2. Phoenix says:

    Whatever we do.. if we do it with great love.. we do well.

  3. Thank you, Andrea. I heard a woman once remark with great pride “God is speaking through me, you know.” An older gentleman in the room quietly remarked “He once spoke through a donkey, I wouldn’t get a big head about it unless you want us to draw other comparisons!” It cracked me up. That gentleman’s voice comes back to me often.

  4. Well said, Phoenix. God’s blessings on our work, sister.

  5. Heather says:

    Lori, this was a great blog, very well said, and one that really hits home to me. So often, I have struggled with wanting to get in front of a “bigger audience” and wonder why I am placed “only” where I am. It is definitely a struggle with pride. Your blog is a great reminder of the TRUTH that every ministry and every work that God has us do is important.

  6. Cheri says:

    “Some of us are called to world-wide audiences and others of us are called to smaller numbers but certainly not lesser ministries, not lesser souls.”

    Amen, amen, amen!

    And just think, we will have eternity to meet other “small” ministers for Him and learn about how God used them during their lives.

    Intriguing,
    Cheri

  7. Dale says:

    Thanks for the food for thought, Lori. I never really pondered why Jesus came at that point in history. Your whole article was encouraging.

  8. My pride is mountainous, Heather! God is always chipping away at it. Thanks for commenting with such transparency.

  9. I think that heaven will set our ideas about “small” and “large” on their heads. Looking forward to it.

  10. Welcome, Dale! Glad you found encouragement here.

  11. Sherry says:

    Once again you’ve left me in awe. You might be reaching a small audience but you allow God to use you in such a big way. This was so encouraging and thought provoking. I loved the the details about the milipede. I’ve never seen one up close but there’s so much truth in your comparisons. This was just awesome. Girl, you ROCK!

  12. Thanks, Sherry! I owe the millipede observation to Dr. Andrus in my single required college science course. We were supposed to make 100 observations about a candle and 100 observations about a small object in nature. I HATED the assignment but thirty years later, I’m STILL learning from it and finding ways to apply those observations to life. So, thank you, Dr. Andrus! And thanks for dropping in Sherry.

  13. Living Water says:

    I understand the feeling exactly. We always desire greater reach and bigger audiences, even for the blogs we are writing. I absolutely agree with you that it is the size of our hearts and the scope of our faith that are important. Thank you for sharing this.

  14. Greg says:

    The desire for a bigger audience is often from our own pride (I’m guilty as charged!). We WANT to do things for God, but LOVE the recognition we get for it, from our fellow man. But the true attitude at the end of the day is, “I am an unprofitable servant; I have done that which was required of me.” God has a marvelous plan for each of His children, and we need to be humble enough to follow it, regardless of our own uninformed opinions. 🙂

  15. Sometimes it’s pride but sometimes it’s wanting to be sure you’ve done your best for God and for other believers that makes us afraid of working small. Sometimes Satan accuses us of not trying our best or having enough faith if we work “small”. Many of us need the assurance that it’s not always God’s expectations that we go big.

  16. Wow! I needed this tonight. I so easily feel so very small in this world and have come to understand that small, not of this world, a peculiar people is what I am supposed to be in God’s economy. I love the poem lines you quoted from R. Wilbur. I will copy that down and look up the rest of the poem. Thanks for your encouragement.
    ~ linda

  17. Love that you dropped by, Linda! Not of this world gets wearing if we try to bear it alone. It’s encouraging to hear from each other!

  18. sheri says:

    Woweee ! Lori ! Can’t believe I am just now seeing and reading this amazing blog of three months ago ! Your thoughts and observations regarding small vs large are right on the mark ! God gave you these words to write because many writers/authors/bloggers/ out there will be reached and touched by them and changed ! Thank you, dear friend, and may God bless you as you are on your way BRMCWC !

  19. Gina says:

    This was EXACTLY what I needed to read tonight. Bless you for having the courage to speak what is in your heart and to be obedient to God’s call on your life. Thank you.