When Isaiah said, "Here am I. Send me." He likely didn't know exactly what it was he was saying "Yes" to. It was only after saying "Send me" that the Lord told him he would be preaching to people who would not listen, who had eyes that could not see the reality of things and ears that would not hear the truth. Be honest, now. How many of us would say "Here am I. Send me." if we knew ahead of time that the Lord would be sending us to a virtually fruitless ministry. We like to think Adoniram Judson would still have gone to Burma, even if he had known that he would labor for five years before getting one single person to convert to Christ. But, he did go, and for his labors Burma today has more Baptists than any other country in the world except the USA. Consequently, it is easy for us to look back and say he would have gone even if he had known how long it would take to get one convert.
A whole lot of us would join Isaiah in saying, "Here am I. Send me." However, a lot of us would put a "but" on that declaration. Send me, Lord, but please not to a little church out in the boonies where no one will ever hear about me. I wonder if today's commitments have a lot of "buts" attached.
We sing, "Wherever He leads I'll go", but in our hearts we say, "but please, Lord, not there."
Today's post is a tribute to those hundreds of ministers who left off the "but" and went where the Lord sent them. There are literally thousands of good preachers laboring in virtual obscurity in a little church in a small town somewhere. And they labor without whining and crying about their circumstances. They are being paid a meager salary, barely enough to buy the necessities of life and not complaining about it or exhibiting the least bit of jealousy at the much larger salaries of their suburban counterparts.
I personally know and have known so many of these men. In my book they are heroes. They answered the call to go where the digging was hard—almost impossible, in fact. But they kept at it. Week after week, month after month, year after year they kept on plugging away, doing what they had been called to do. They watched as the meager fruits of their labors would come into their church, only to leave for a larger, more activity-filled congregation nearby. Knowledgeable observers knew what was happening. They knew that the people who were joining their larger churches, coming from the small ones elsewhere, were not the fruit of their own labor, but that of some hard working pastor in some small church down the way.
In fact, John Bisagno, when he was pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston, was once heard to say, "I will get my church to sponsor every new church that is needed, because I know that eventually the people they reach in that new church will end up in mine." The pastors in those small churches knew that, too, but they kept on plugging away, doing what they were called to do.
So, today I salute all those guys who are laboring away in a small church somewhere. Were it not for their work, reaching the lost in their community, there would be precious little evangelism being done at all. Whereas it takes about twenty of his members to reach one convert, it takes nearly sixty of that large church's members to reach one new convert. That's just a fact. What that says is that the small church is three times more likely to win a new convert to Christ than that larger church. The most efficient evangelism is being done by the smaller churches. So, join me in a salute to the small church pastor who is doing the really hard digging. May his tribe increase. May whatever denomination he labors in recognize the work he is doing and reward him lavishly.