Sitting on a hotel’s 38th floor, you gain a perspective on a community that you can’t get from street level.
On a recent mission trip, I could see all of Charlestown, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Boston, which is a SEND city for the North American Mission Board.
Each morning as I sat on my bed, I would pray for this beautiful neighborhood and the young church being planted there.
On the edge of Charlestown, a newly opened casino towers over the community. The bronze-toned glass tower with 27 floors is visible for miles. Each morning as I looked out my window, I thought about the big casino and the small church.
Both the casino and the church hope to reach their community and beyond, but for very different reasons.
The casino offers luxury and the dream of hitting the jackpot. The church offers the hope of the gospel and love for people who live broken and empty lives.
The big casino meets in a $2.6 billion facility that is hard to miss. The small church has no facility. They meet in a school gymnasium in the neighborhood.
If Jesus were to walk the streets of Boston today, I think He may tell a parable of the big casino and the small church. Perhaps He already has. In Mathew 13:31, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in a field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Jesus seems to be saying that the kingdom of heaven often grows from small beginnings. A mustard seed is not very impressive. It is so small one might easily overlook it. It appears to be almost inconsequential.
Placing something so tiny and insignificant into the ground may seem like almost a waste of time.
Then God does what only God can do.
He brings life and growth to that unimpressive little seed – significant, noticeable, life-giving growth. So much so “that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
As I sat in my hotel looking over Charlestown, I realized why church planting is so important. The seeds of the gospel are being planted in a community where it is desperately needed.
While the spotlights shine on the casino, a small group of dedicated church planters is serving their community and showing the love of Jesus to those who don’t know Him. One person at a time, one neighborhood at a time, the gospel is advancing.
From a human perspective, what is happening in Charlestown is probably not that impressive. At least not yet. However, a significant, noticeable, life-giving church is taking root.
The size of the church does not limit what God can do in a community. God often starts with small things to do big things!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Shorter is a former president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley.)