By Luke Holmes
Before John Froelich invented the tractor in 1892, farmers relied on steam-powered engines and back-breaking work to thresh wheat. Those engines were heavy and hard to maneuver, so Froelich wanted something smaller but with more power.
During the first harvest with his new engine his crew was able to thresh 72,000 bushels of wheat, making the new equipment a roaring success.
As long as mankind has had to work, we’ve been looking for a way to make that work easier. “Work smarter, not harder” is the mantra of many people in all walks of life and professions. It’s true in churches, too.
Like almost all churches we transitioned to online-only in March and still maintain a digital presence. I’m thankful for these technological tools that didn’t exist when I started in ministry 20 years ago. Through these tools, churches are able to reach more people than ever before. A simple broadcast on Facebook allows the church to reach a large section of their community and even those across the world.
When we use these tools with such a large reach it makes us feel important and powerful. We love seeing the big numbers of views and shares. There’s nothing wrong with using tools like Facebook, blogs, and even articles like this one to try to reach as many people as possible.
There is a multitude of information out there about how to best use these tools for large impact across wide swaths of the country. These tools are part of God’s grace that allow us to have an impact far larger than we could by ourselves.
It’s fun to use big tools that can accomplish big jobs. A person who is skilled with a big tractor or backhoe can accomplish in one hour what would take a team a month to do by hand. It’s tempting to think that way about work in the church. We think we have to use big tools to make a big kingdom impact. But we have to remember that most of the pastor’s work is done with hand tools, not heavy equipment.
If someone offered a free class on how to drive a bulldozer many people would show up. But a class teaching you how to use a shovel likely wouldn’t garner many attendees. In the same way, pastors and churches are inundated with ideas about how to use the right tools to double their attendance or create a name for themselves online.
While a pastor can use many big tools, even a sermon, to reach large sections of people, the most important work a pastor or ministry leader does is accomplished with small tools in small moments.
These small tools can be anything from a handwritten card to a family, a meal with someone to disciple them, a text to a discouraged member, or a visit to a family in the hospital. All of these things are done behind the scenes, off the stage, and often only reach one or two people.
Tasks like these don’t have the glamor or mass impact of the large-scale events, but they often have a much longer lasting impact. The measure of a church leader isn’t about how wide their ministry is but how deep it gets into people’s hearts and minds.
We see this principle laid out for us all over the Bible. Moses led the entire people of Israel but took time to lead and disciple Joshua. Elijah taught Elisha, and even Jesus spent most of His time in small groups. The example of Jesus teaches us we can have a big impact by spending the majority of our ministry in small groups.
The tools the pastor uses are more like those of a master carpenter building a small table than an architect building a skyscraper. Pastors are to use simple and time-tested tools to lead churches and help build people into followers of Christ. Don’t be ashamed of doing the small, daily things that will make an impact for generations to come.
We can know this method works from examples in our own lives. Most of us can remember a big camp, conference, or retreat that helped us grow in the faith. But those who made the biggest impact in my spiritual walk were those who regularly and consistently worked to mold me into a man after God’s own heart.
My biggest spiritual transformation took place through my parents who consistently guided me, pastors who gently corrected me, and friends who encouraged me when I needed it. None of these things were done before great crowds or with heavy equipment, but they all made an eternal difference.
The small tools will get the job done. They might take longer and require some skill, and no one will line up to watch you do it. But at the end of the day Christ will use you to do the work He has called you to do.
The most important ministry we can do takes place in small and quiet moments, when we point one or two weary souls to Jesus. If you have a big tool like Facebook then use it as best you can, but also learn to use the small moments and tools too. Don’t despise the hand tools God has given you. They can change lives.
LUKE HOLMES (@lukeholmes) is husband to Sara, father to three young girls, and pastor at First Baptist Church Tishomingo, Oklahoma, since 2011. He’s a graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and can be found online at LukeAHolmes.com.