I’ve been a pastor for a long time now. One thing I’ve learned: one or two people can make a huge difference in a church, both positively and negatively.
A man contacted me. He was moving to Toronto, and somebody had recommended the church I pastor. We met for coffee, and he asked questions about our ministry. At the end of our coffee, he told me how much he was looking forward to being part of the church.
He kept his word. He and his wife showed up almost every week. They became the kind of people who are easy to pastor. They gave. They encouraged. They prayed. They came hungry to hear from Scripture each week. They raised the spiritual temperature of the church.
After a couple of years, they moved. I remember feeling a little discouraged. Almost immediately, two single women started attending the church. They had the same effect. Through their ordinary faithfulness, they set the pace for others in the church.
I’ve seen this over and over. One or two people can positively affect the entire feel of a church and lead others to faithfulness by their example. As a pastor, I can feel the difference when these people are present in the church.
Even in a large church, one or two people can play a disproportionate role. At key moments, they may be able to speak “a word fitly spoken” (Proverbs 25:11). This word can often be enough to shape the church’s response and set the tone for everyone else. Sometimes we need the minority report of Caleb when everyone else loses their minds (Numbers 13:30).
Of course, negative people can make a big difference too. Read almost any epistle, and you see the damage one person can do. One false teacher, one divisive person can do untold damage within the church. A lot of ministry involves preparing a church to protect itself against these people. A healthy church culture is an uncomfortable place for these kinds of people. But they’re always a danger, and they can easily sabotage ministry.
But it doesn’t even take being negative. Churches are threatened not only by false teaching and division but a gradual cooling of its affections. Our apathy can pose a serious threat to the church.
A lot of us think that our influence is negligible. Never underestimate the power of living as a faithful follower of Jesus in a local church. Do radically ordinary things: show up every Sunday. Look for someone to encourage. Pray. Serve. Lean in during the sermon. Not only will you benefit, but others will see your example and begin to take these steps too. Given enough time, as others join you, God might shape the entire direction of the church through your example.
Sometimes low-maintenance believers don’t get much attention in a church. They just faithfully show up, serve, and encourage. But don’t overlook the power of what a few godly people in a church can do. Pray for them. Encourage them. Thank God for them. They may be easy to overlook, but they’re one of God’s gracious provisions to the church.