by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister
I salute and honor the little churches of Western District Conference for their perseverance and endurance!
I think of you, little churches, with these words from I Thessalonians 1:2-3, “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I have just returned from a four-day swing through Oklahoma and western Kansas visiting churches and pastors. I give this salute to four such churches I met with ten or less in a typical worship service:
- Greenfield Mennonite Church, Carnegie, OK
- Koinonia Mennonite Church, Clinton, OK
- Calvary Mennonite Church, Liberal, KS
- Gospel Fellowship Church, Montezuma, KS
Descriptions of their gatherings actually sounded much like the New Testament instruction. “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (I Corinthians 14:26).
I met with five of the six active members of Greenfield at their tidy, white church building situated between the former parsonage and the cemetery in the wheat fields and pastures of central Oklahoma. They have been without a pastor for 35 years. They have shared the responsibilities of special inspiration/music and cleaning in rotation. Alvin Unruh has been the long-term Sunday School teacher, and guest preachers now come via video on most Sundays.
Lyle Schaller, long-time church consultant, called these little churches cat churches with at least nine lives. Each conference minister pronouncement of soon demise is met with renewed energy and yet another chapter of life. God bless them.
As I drove the 900 miles, I dreamed of new possibilities. Could a sister congregation with a pastor stream the Sunday morning sermon to a little church? What if the bigger sister brought special music and taught the Sunday School lesson once a quarter or once a month? What if we loaded “little church” into a van for a special service and potluck at the larger church twice a year? How could we encourage each other?
I thank God for all our churches, bigger or smaller. “May your love abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).