Eric and Beth Yodis, WorldVenture
A little more than half a year ago, Eric came to the painful realization that he could no longer call his parents in Arizona. His dad can no longer hear well enough and his mom, who is blind now, does not have the strength to hold the receiver or even speak loud enough to be heard for more than a minute or so. Having some airline credits (which were set to expire in Sept) came in handy and he was able to book a ticket to AZ to visit them in August on a two and a half week “workation”.
While on workation, Eric will be catching up on targeted ministry reading and working on administrative issues, as well as support and supporter issues. Fortunately these are things that can be done on either side of the ocean. We ask that you pray for Eric as he goes to the states and Beth as she stays in Ukraine this time. Also, please pray that Eric has a great time visiting his parents and will be a blessing to them.
Eric Chased by 4 Angry Men
While Beth was visiting her mom in east Tennessee, I was using the time to visit as many of the regional church plant coordinators as possible. As such, I took a bus down to a crime infested, mob controlled town of Uman, where I was to be picked up by a Ukrainian colleague to begin a four-province tour of the southern and western regions of Ukraine.
My friend was about 15 minutes late in getting to the bus station and as I was waiting, I saw a young, Korean man (just a boy really) being held up in a “Dropped Wallet” scam. Even though the boy was sharp enough not to fall for the scam and had not touched the wallet, it didn’t make a difference to these thugs. They had him pinned up against one of the buses, with his hands high in the air. Three worthless scoundrels surrounded him while another kept a look-out. As I saw the look of fright on this young man’s face and his eyes as big as apricots, some deep paternal instinct kicked in and I wasn’t able to remain indifferent.
What happened in the next few moments remains a blur… charging, shouting, grabbing the boy from their midst, shoulder blocking, pushing him onto his bus… it all happened so very quickly, efficiently and effectively. When it was all over, I looked back at the stunned expressions on the faces of the four villains and knew my adventure was only beginning. Faced with fight or flight, I chose flight and for the next 10 minutes we played cat and mouse. It ended cordially enough when I was finally cornered by one of the thugs who wasn’t quite so brave when the odds were one on one.
He summoned his boss who had a much clearer head and hadn’t been at the scene of the crime. After a few minutes of engaging in “self-defense witnessing”, the boss concluded, “Alright, let’s do it this way. You don’t interfere in our business and we won’t interfere in yours.” In reply I said, “Sorry Andre! I can’t agree to that! You can’t do those things in front of me. I can’t act differently (than I did) because Christ lives in me!” Andre, the boss, let out a small exasperated sigh, “O.k., we won’t do anything in your sight. You can come out of the terminal, nobody will touch you.”
Of course, I’ve thought about all the ways I might have done this differently, but in this instance, I see the grace and sovereignty of God in so many ways and I remain convinced that God orchestrated this entire event for His glory. Was it for the benefit of the Jewish man by whom I sat on the bus for three hours having a time of significant and meaningful conversation? Was it for the benefit of the Korean boy who was able to scramble onto the relative safety of his bus? Was it for the benefit of the mafia leader that needed someone to tell him he was going to hell unless he repented and turned away from his sin? Was it for my benefit, so that I would have practice in trusting God in difficult circumstances? Or was it for your benefit as a prayer warrior, to encourage you to pray for missionaries more faithfully? Only God knows the answer to these questions, and I’m o.k. with that.
To be honest, I don’t like asking our prayer partners to pray for our safety when we travel. It seems so mundane. Yet after these events, I’ve changed my tune a bit. After all, it is impossible to send out a prayer update when you’re being chased by four angry men.
Churches come in all shapes and sizes. Regardless of the size, the church is beautiful. A Christianity Today opinion piece highlighted the value of starting small churches. We wanted to share it with you because small churches are often looked down upon as not successful, yet there are many advantages of small churches.
This is the article…Church planters are some of
What would happen if, instead of sending one church planter to start a church, hoping for it to reach (to pick an arbitrary number) 5,000 attendees, we sent out 50 church planters, and resourced them with the tools to grow to 100 on average?
Not that every church will reach 100. Some will be bigger, some will be smaller. But if the expectation was 50 churches of 100, instead of one church of 5,000, how would it change the way we plant, resource and encourage churches?
And what if we applied that same logic to our existing churches?
Big churches are great. But they’re very rare. And they’re not the only way to see the kingdom of God move forward.
After all, if 5,000 people come to Christ, why do we care if they attend one big healthy church of 5,000, or 50 small healthy churches of 100? Or even 100 healthy churches of 50?
I know there are church planting organizations that do this. But if your group, denomination or missions organization hasn’t caught this as part of their vision, I encourage you to think about it seriously.
If we made this shift in strategy, here are a few positive changes we might see.
- We’d have far more successful churches
Planting one church, hoping for it to grow numerically every year until it reaches mega status is a fool’s gambit. Not one in 100 reaches mega size. In fact, not one in ten is likely to ever remain consistently above 100.
But if a bunch of healthy small churches are the goal, rather than one mega-size church, the chances of success rise dramatically.
- More pastors would get to use their gifts
The bigger the church gets, the harder it is to find leaders with the gifts, training, temperament, calling and skillset to lead them.
There are a lot more people who are capable of leading smaller churches.
But there are a lot more people who are capable of leading smaller churches. Not because the skills and gifts are lesser, (I’m a small church pastor myself) but because they’re more common.
Most pastors don’t go into ministry because they feel called to manage resources, raise funds, build facilities, or utilize most of the skills needed for big churches.
Most pastors are called to preach the Word and care for people. Those are the gifts that are needed in smaller churches.
- Church leaders would be under less pressure
It’s hard to pastor a healthy church. It’s even harder to start one and nurture it to long-term health.
But it’s brutal to try to do that while under the relentless pressure to get bigger every year. And it’s unfair to expect it.
But being one pastor of 50, pastoring churches averaging 100? That’s setting us up for success.
- Fewer pastors would quit in frustration and discouragement
Too many pastors leave the ministry without finishing the race.
How much of that is due to unrealistic expectations of numerical growth, combined with under-resourcing them to be healthy while they’re small?
Celebrating and resourcing healthy churches of all sizes might keep a lot more good people in pastoral ministry.
- Our time and energy could be utilized better
I’ve seen it happen too many times. A young pastor starts out, excited about ministry. But very soon they discover that doing a good job within their pastoral calling isn’t enough. The pressure mounts to get the attendance numbers up. From the denomination, the church members, fellow pastors, and their own ego.
Soon, they find themselves doing less pastoring, more growth strategizing. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but we all have limited time and energy, so when we push for numerical church growth we’re often stealing something from pastoring.
But if 50 pastors are expected to pastor churches averaging 100, that pressure diminishes and the time and energy they were spending on growth strategies can be poured into pastoral care.
- It would require less overhead, land and resources
It’s far easier to find land and build facilities for 50 small churches than for one massive church. It’s far easier to find land and build facilities for 50 small churches than one massive church. And if the small churches work cooperatively, they can bear the mutual burden of other financial issues, too.
- More people would get pastored by their pastor
The bigger the church, the fewer people can have access to the pastor. For some people, that’s okay. But for many, it’s not. They’re not being demanding, invasive or petty to want to attend a church where their pastor baptizes them, dedicates their children, counsels them through marriage problems and visits them when they’re sick.
- We could reach more types of people
When we’re trying to get more people in the same building, we tend to aim for the mainstream, often at the cost of forgetting those who live on the fringes.
The forgotten and the outcasts should never be forgotten or outcast by the church.
Besides, the mainstream is getting smaller than ever, while the fringes are growing.
There have, and will always be people who choose to live outside the mainstream of culture. People who don’t want to do what’s popular. People who want a church worship experience that is more quirky, less predictable. Those people are less likely to be reached in large, mainstream groups. Only in small batches.
- Failure wouldn’t be fatal
Shooting for 50 churches averaging 100 people doesn’t mean we have to cap each church at 100. So, if one or two of the groups happen to get bigger, that’s great!
But nothing comes without a cost. When a church of 5,000 fails, the damage is massive.
But if there are 50 churches of 100 and one, two or even ten of them fail, the damage, while horrible for those in the failed church, doesn’t affect the rest of the churches.
- We could have more churches in hard places
There are a lot of places where big churches won’t work for a variety of reasons.
There’s nowhere on earth where you can’t have a small church. But there’s nowhere on earth where you can’t have a small church. Even in places where Christianity is illegal, small gatherings of Christians still can and do happen. But, even where Christianity is legal, there are a lot of places where it’s getting harder to find positive responses to the gospel’s hopeful, but difficult truths. Those hard places aren’t all in exotic, foreign lands. More often, they are going to be in our own towns and cities. Many of them are distrustful of big organizations, including big churches. But they might be more open to the humble simplicity of a missional small church.
- More people might want to be pastors
And now we address the elephant in the room. Where are all these pastors going to come from, especially in denominations that already have more churches than pastors?
I think, if we allow for a broader definition of church success, and even of what a pastor is, we’d have more people willing to step up and do the work of pastoral ministry.
Bivocational pastors have always been more common than most people realize. What if they became an expected norm? If we launched a bunch of intentionally small churches, maybe most of them could be pastored by people with pastoral hearts, but without the years of bank-breaking seminary education. Not instead of seminary-trained theological giants. But alongside them.
Let’s not limit ourselves to one type of church, one method of church growth, or one definition of pastoring.
People who need Jesus need all kinds of churches and all kinds of pastors.
And Jesus can use them all.
Copyright © 2017 by the author or Christianity Today.
Praise and Prayer Requests:
We praise God that Eric survived the cottonwood/poplar season and was not significantly hampered in the ministry due to his allergies. Also, during that time, God gave Beth a great time with her sisters and a wonderful time of encouragement with her mother.
We praise God for His blessing on Eric’s trips to visit with church planting leadership in five of the different provinces of Ukraine. We thank Him for the wisdom gained and given and for the hospitality and receptivity of all involved. Additionally we thank Him for the stamina and for His hand of protection throughout the trip.
While Beth was visiting the states, Eric went to a small town two hours south of Kiev, and spent much time working with the male vocal and instrumental group, Zion. He was able to coach them through a transformation in their style of presentation and helped with a number of vocal production issues. We praise God for a good, productive time and dramatic results in their performance ability. We thank Him for their desire to continue to work on communicating the message of their songs. Together we sang a few songs at their church on Sunday morning. Here are some amateur videos we posted on Facebook after the service: Click Here!
As Eric prepares to leave for a couple weeks, there is much work that needs to be done before he leaves. Pray for him to have clarity of thought and purpose. Pray the same for Beth as she picks up some slack and holds down the fort while Eric is gone.
A few days after Eric returns to Ukraine, he and Beth will be traveling to a southern province to help kick-off a church planter network among the new church plants there.
Please be praying for them regarding this trip from September 7 through September 12.
We praise God for those who have followed the Spirit’s leading and have recently joined our ministry team or increased their faith pledge of financial support. We were deeply touched by one of these dear servants of our Lord who recently wrote to us these words, “I am constantly reminded that I sit in my comfortable home and send ‘Jesus with skin on’ to far away and difficult places……my constant prayer is that the harvest will be greatly blessed, that you will have wisdom in all your decisions, and be comforted and refreshed daily. I love being a part of the Yodis Team For Jesus.”
The feeling is mutual! We love you and we love being co-laborers with people such as yourselves. Thank you for your love, care, and prayer which results in your sacrificial giving. You inspire us to faithfulness and courage in our lives and ministry. Even if we could afford to do this without your help, we wouldn’t want to, for you are an extension of God’s grace which so very often sustains us. May God continue to bless you.
With grateful hearts, we remain your representatives of God’s mercy.