For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. – Matthew 18:20
Nearly 3 billion people worldwide have never heard the gospel. We hear a a number like that and immediately feel defeated. We are inadequate for such a daunting task. What difference can one person make? What difference can one small church make?
Let me tell you the difference a remnant of 20 can make.
Calvary Baptist Church of Anchorage has a congregation of 20 and yet, each summer, the church opens its doors to about 1,000 short-term missionaries with GraceWorks Alaska who sleep in its classrooms, worship in its chapel, eat in its fellowship hall, decimate its craft room and strain its ancient plumbing. All the church staff asks is for a little quiet during its Wednesday evening prayer service.
Because of the church’s sacrifice, each year tens of thousands of children and family members in the Anchorage area hear the good news that Jesus saves. Many enter into a relationship with Christ and are discipled to maturity and then placed in house or local churches. Broken hearts and broken lives are made whole. For the first time, hope reigns.
Jenell Rose is the longtime church secretary. She has watched the church’s rolls shrink from 500 in Sunday School to its current 20 attendees. “I’ve been to a service where there was only a leader and two or three other people,” Jenell recounts. Lacking a pastor, in 2006 the church was about to close its doors when Pastor Bill Hamilton came on to the scene. Shortly after that, the church voted to partner with GraceWorks.
“We had this big old building, and GraceWorks needed the space to set up their headquarters, so we decided, ‘Why not?’” Jenell says almost offhandedly. Why not indeed?
Part of the GraceWorks fee goes back into the church, which the ministry helps maintain and improve. The church has gotten new carpeting, paint and showers in the deal. God blesses obedience.
A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. – Galatians 6:7b-10
But the tiny remnant doesn’t stop with GraceWorks. Members bring residents from a local rescue mission to church and feed them. “Some of ‘em smell like a brewery, but we do a sack lunch for them and give them doughnuts, coffee and juice. We’ve had a few who have been baptized,” Jenell says. Church members have even been known to prepare sandwiches for area children who wander onto its property in hopes of finding food.
Jenell says the church will continue to do everything it can to reach the lost “as long as we can pay the bills and keep the doors open.” Note she doesn’t mention increasing income or the number of baptisms or the percentage of growth; the goal is just to subsist and serve.
The people of Calvary Baptist Church, though undoubtedly imperfect, stand as a humbling example to the rest of us. If this is what a faithful remnant of 20 can do, what can a church of 50 do? A church of 100? A church of 1,000? And what can you do? It’s time more of us start asking, “Why not?”
If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. – 1 Corinthians 3:12-14