Matthew R. Perry

Archive for the ‘small groups’ Category

Book Review: “Why Join a small Church?” by John Benton

In church, Evangelism, Missions, small groups on March 21, 2009 at 12:24 pm


I came across John Benton’s wonderful little book, Why Join a small Church? at a very important and crucial time in my ministry. Benton serves as pastor of Chertsey Street Baptist Church in Guildford, England, and has written such a helpful work in this area, that I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I serve as pastor of what some consider a small church (approx. 160-170 on a Sunday morning when the weather holds up). We have a number of folks who come through our church either just to visit, or are looking for another church that is, well, smaller than a number of larger churches that are in our area.

(An interesting trend here: many in our larger churches are looking for a smaller church to develop some close relationships, and others are in smaller churches looking to larger ones because of larger ministries and programs in which they may be involved. No wonder we see so many jumping churches all the time. Just a thought.)

Benton comes along and says

To join a big and thriving church is not always wrong, but it is frequently the easy option. To join a little needy congregation is not a decision to be taken lightly. It will probably require far more guts, love, resilience and spiritual exertion. But how the devil would love to herd Christians into a few big city centre churches, getting them to travel miles from their communities, and leaving vast tracts of our country with no viable witness for the gospel.

In Chapter One, Benton gives seven reasons to “throw your lot” into smaller churches (11-15):

    1. The big churches can spare you.
    2. The small churches need you.
    3. Small churches give opportunities to serve.
    4. Small churches enjoy closer fellowship.
    5. Smaller churches will stretch you more as a Christian.
    6. Small churches offer you a life’s work of real significance.
    7. Small churches offer you the chance to confound the world.

Benton closes the chapter by saying what many look for in a church.

  • What’s the music program like?
  • Is the church building impressive?
  • Can I find me a marriage partner? (Translate: are there young people there?)
  • Do the services employ the latest technology?
  • What’s the coffee like?
  • Will I be asked to do a lot? (16)

Rather, we should ask, “Is the love of Christ shown? Is the Bible taught faithfully? Is the church seeking to win others to Christ?” (16)

Chapter Two, entitled “Problems You May Face,” deals honestly with the plight of many smaller churches (bad facilities, nothing for children or youth, discouragement, lack of spiritual life, idiosyncracies, stale worship, etc.). Benton even questions the need for planting churches, for he feels that “it is far better, whatever the difficulties, if we can help to build up what is already in existence” (24).

Chapter Three, entitled “Why It Is a Tragedy if Small Churches Close,” he answers up front:

Everyone needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and if possible to see it lived out in practical life. When a Bible church closes it usually leaves an area where people have been robbed of the possibility of hearing the gospel. But, in fact, everyone needs to become a Christian and local churches are the God-ordained means of holding out the world of life to the community.

Crafted around 1 Peter 1:3-12, Benton gives some helpful and necessary principles on why small churches are so needed. Chapter Four, entitled “How to Make a Small Church a Great Church,” was covered in a previous blog post, so I’ll move on to Chapter Five, entitled, “Encouragement for the Task.” Allow me to list off seven encouragements Benton believes (and I would agree) will help small churches to persevere and achieve great things for God.

  1. The potential of the church is far greater than we realize.
  2. The Lord is able to use small groups of Christians to transform whole communities.
  3. The Lord is able to use the most unlikely people to do remarkable things.
  4. The Lord Jesus will build His church.
  5. The Lord’s power is not dependent on great human resources.
  6. The power of God’s Spirit is available to all Christians
  7. The breakdown of secular society is a sign of how much each community needs small churches.


While each person must seek after God as to which church to join, we must make sure that our reasons are not simply due to external looks and resources, but rather they must match up to biblical mandates. We have become a consumeristic society, where we look at churches to see what they can offer us, rather than pouring our gifts into them.

Are you someone who prefers a larger church? Why? Do smaller churches not have the ministries or programs you desire? Do smaller churches make you feel conspicuous, whereas larger churches give you a place to blend in and hide? Would you be willing to be used by God to roll up your sleeves and help those small churches out so they may focus on a lost and dying world?

Frankly, are you elevating personal preferences to tests of faith? If so, you may well be walking in pride and selfishness, all the while deluding yourselves into thinking you are doing these things for spiritual reasons.

(John Benton, Why Join a small Church?, Rosshire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2008, 61 pp., $7.99.)

To read another fine (and far better) review of this work, click here.

Technorati Tags:

REACH: Our Small Groups Ministry at My Church

In Acts 1:8, Evangelism, small groups on February 25, 2009 at 2:33 pm

In January, I preached about spreading God’s glory from our neighbors to the nations. It is my conviction that Christ called us to be witnesses from our hometown to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:6-8). In fact, the entire layout of Acts is how the Spirit led His people to fulfill His mission. So, too, must we be led by the Spirit of God to seek out ways to strengthen God’s people and share God’s gospel through Jesus.

That’s why God has impressed on me and a number of others that we should start some small groups that meet outside of our church building called R.E.A.C.H. This stands for:



Area from

Church to


—given this not only a name, but in what we should be engaged: reaching our people and our neighbors with the Gospel.

Why do this? Consider:

  • The majority of our members only come to one service per week, either due to driving distance, work, health reasons, or just lost the habit of attending (Hebrews 10:25);.
  • The majority of those who live in our neighborhoods come to zero services, thus are not being fed the Gospel nor are they fellowshipping with those who are under the Gospel of Christ.

R.E.A.C.H. groups with bring the presence of God’s people at Boone’s Creek to the various locations where our people are located—as well as to those who are unbelievers, thus offering them an entry point in developing relationships with God’s people. What will these REACH groups set out to accomplish? Four things:

  • Strengthen our sanctification (2 Peter 3:18);
  • Foster fellowship (Acts 2:42-44);
  • Cultivate care and concern among the members (Hebrews 12:5-8; Galatians 6:1-2);
  • Generate an exercising of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:27-13:8)

Three have already expressed interest in leading a REACH group: Alex Marshall, Jr. (Lexington), Cam Potts (Richmond) and Mike Hamilton (Winchester). Doug and Mindy Yates are working on leading a REACH group here at church on Wednesday nights to reach our parents/grandparents who drop off their children to TeamKID. We will also have a REACH group that will meet on Tuesday at 10:00 A.M. here in the Athens area.

We will make use of three resources to train these leaders. The first (and primary) is the Scriptures, along with “Why Small Groups?“, edited by C.J. Mahaney. The other will be “Sticky Church” by Nelson Searcy.

The REACH groups will kick this off on Tuesday, March 24. Why March 24? It marks 40 days prior to our revival services beginning on May 3 and going through May 5. You will have a prayer guide to work from, as well as discussion questions based upon the Sunday morning sermon (I do this to keep from adding one more “thing,” and to help streamline our teaching ministries here).

We will have sign-up sheets in the vestibule (that’s church language for ‘foyer outside the sanctuary’). Alex lives in the Hartland area in Lexington and Mike Hamilton lives in Winchester. If anyone else is interested in leading one, please let me know so we can begin training ASAP. Otherwise, sign up for a REACH group and watch God move among that fellowship.

Again, there will be sign-up sheets in the foyer. Please sign up for one of these, or volunteer to lead a group.

May God help us spread His glory from our neighbors to the nations,

Bro. Matt