It was a true blessing to attend the Expository Preaching Conference in Heber Springs, Arkansas last week. My wife and I were encouraged by the instruction, the preaching, and the fellowship. What really blew us away was the church that hosts and helps fund the conference. Tumbling Shoals Baptist Church- just outside Heber Springs- is not your typical "small country church". Over the last few years their church size has fluctuated between 60-85 people. Our church is almost identical in size. They are mostly older folks but have seen more younger folks and children added recently. This reflects our church's demographics as well. There is nothing wrong with any of this but many denominational leaders and pastors would not think it too impressive. Unfortunately we are more impressed by the cover of the book than its contents. The contents of Tumbling Shoals Baptist Church ought to be the aim for every church-- large or small, urban or rural, young or old.
They are a kingdom-driven church. The church partners with an organization called International Church Planters (its offices are next door to the church) that sends out short-term mission teams into foreign countries for gospel work and church planting. I was told that 30% of the congregation went on a mission team last year (some to Kenya, some to Ecuador). One in three! The auditorium where the church gathers to worship is draped with numerous flags (I think 12) that represent the countries where they have been to help plant churches. Last year when the church was told of an urgent need to raise $100K to dig water wells in a community in Ecuador so that missionaries would have an open door to do gospel work, the church responded and raised the money in 6 months.
These aren't rich people. They are regular folk in a small rural community in Arkansas... but they are kingdom driven. The church often brings in pastors who are burned out or beat up to help restore them and send them back out. They train men up in their own congregation who sense a call to preach-- they have three men right now ready to serve as a pastor somewhere. They don't order prepackaged curriculum to teach from... their teachers are trained to teach expositionally through Scripture and are doing just that. Their textbook is the Bible. I was told their church's budget was somewhere south of 200K (less than the budget of our church) but they make every penny count toward the kingdom.
My hope and prayer has always been to lead Memorial to be a launching pad for the gospel into our community and into the nations of the world. It was refreshing to see an example of a church that is carrying that vision out. You don't have to be a mega-church or "impressive" in a worldly sense to make a kingdom impact. You simply must be faithful- lean on the sufficiency of Scripture and apply it to every area of your life.