"They begin at life," states Parks. That is where the small church begins—at life lived out in the Spirit to do the work of an evangelist, discipleship, and building a community of care.
Parks takes us through his journey from pastoring a large church to pastoring a small, struggling church, while identifying the conundrums many small churches face today: plateaued or declining growth, chaotic meetings, and oversized buildings. He is also forthright about the gathered faithful who have not yet been swept away by the mega church. He states that the overwhelming shift to mega-churches has seen defectors flee in droves to find “the next best thing for their teen,” all the while forgetting about their call to minister the gospel through their use of spiritual gifts to the least and the lost.
Parks takes broad strokes in his succinct book to convey that the strength of the church growth movement isn’t in the big, but in the small 30, 60, or 90 who faithfully gather each week at the table of grace to share life in community. Small church strength comes not from numerical growth but from theological growth.
Parks addresses areas of concern uniquely related to the small church on the downhill slide. If the small, dwindling church would articulate their current state of decline, many would see the writing on the wall that they are living in the past with a vision of yesterday’s growth in numbers, while inhabiting a building which is now too big and too costly to maintain.
As each 30-, 60-, or 90-person church sees freefall due to mitigating factors, especially those in rural America, due in part to a vast exodus from the small town to urban and suburban growth centers where the jobs are, they wonder if this is the end of God’s plan for ministry to their particular communities.
Park addresses this issue by stating that God’s Spirit is still very much alive and active, and has gifted and empowered the 30, 60, and 90 to accomplish the task before them. The faithful attendee is uniquely equipped with all the gifts and resources necessary to exist and to do effective ministry to others. God somehow adjusts the body and its mission no matter its time, place, or size when those present live in and by the power of the Spirit.Parks summarizes his book with several good diagnostic questions. These include: “Where does real church happen?” and “Is the small church part of the problem or the solution?” He concludes that the small church is, in fact, part of the solution, if the small church can reimagine and believe it is equipped and Spirit-led.
In the end, Parks writes, “It is helpful to remember that the ordering of the life of the church is heroic work. It is a visible witness to the reconciliation of the world with God accomplished in Jesus Christ” (p. 75).