The Little Things

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite churches in the whole world, Second Baptist in Houston, Texas. A couple other Walk Thru instructors, Rich Leland and Steve Keyes, and I were privileged to introduce over 800 teachers and Bible study leaders to our two excellent teacher training courses, The Seven Laws of the Learner and Teaching with Style. The response was off the charts and it was obvious that the men and women who participated have a sincere passion to become better communicators of God's Word and see more lives transformed by its truths.

This was probably about my tenth visit during the past fifteen years, but my association with Second Baptist goes all the way back to the late 80's when Ellen and I were serving our first church in Central Illinois. We lived in a town that was pretty isolated by American standards. There was no local ministerial association and I was the only pastor on staff trying to keep up with the demands of a growing congregation. We would often come home on Sunday night after a very full day and exhaustedly plop down on our couch. We didn't have cable TV for the first few years so we only got one channel. That's when we were introduced to Dr. Ed Young through his broadcast, The Fellowship of Excitement, a ministry of Second Baptist. Dr.Young became my pastor, and his weekly encouragement helped keep me from quitting the ministry and finding a career that offered more measurable results. So, every time I minister at Second Baptist in Houston I feel like I'm going home. I also feel like in some small way I'm repaying a debt to the church that unselfishly shared their pastor with me all the way up in the cornfields of Illinois.

The warm welcome I received wasn't just due to the 108 degree temperature outside or the Texas hospitality inside. No, this was like a family reunion. A really big family reunion. According to their website, Second Baptist now has a membership of over 55,000 between its five campuses. With average attendance of 30,000 or so, this is one of the largest churches in America.

And yet every time I go there I'm struck by how small the place feels. Don't get me wrong, the main campus is massive and does its best to prove that everything really is bigger in Texas. But the people are anything but impersonal and detached. They actually call each other by name and go out of their way to welcome visitors. When I asked for directions to C Gym where I was to teach, a kind greeter smiled and said "Let me take you there," and proceeded to tell me how much he loves his church as we navigated through the maze of buildings.

I asked a couple associate pastors how they manage to make such a huge church still feel small. They shared about how much they emphasize Bible study classes and small groups. Nothing so unique about that answer. I've been to lots of churches with similar structure that leave you feeling like an anonymous stranger. There had to be more than just a structural answer to explain the sense of belonging that permeates the place. When I probed deeper, three people told me the same thing in slightly different words. "Church is all about relationships. Our pastor Dr. Young preaches and models that constantly. He reaches out with a hundred little touches every week and we all just try and keep up with him."

So there it was. The secret that really isn't a secret at all. Second Baptist is led by a pastor who at 75 years of age has never let the mechanics of programs snuff out his passion for people. And that passion filters down through the staff and leaders into the very pulse of the church. John Maxwell would say, "Speed of the leader -- speed of the team."

I was driving home a few days after returning to Atlanta when my cell phone rang. It was Dr. Ed Young calling to thank me for coming to Houston to help equip his teachers and leaders. He gave me some specific examples of feedback he had collected on the impact of the weekend. I couldn't believe he had taken the time to call. But this wasn't just a polite thank you call checked off a long list of to-dos. He went on to ask me all about how Walk Thru the Bible is doing and to express his genuine support as we reinvent this ministry that is so desperately needed by this generation. And then he prayed for me. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and felt like everything I had been told about Dr. Young making a hundred little touches a week was probably an understatement.

I've thought a lot about that call and the full-page letter that arrived a week later. What are the little things I need to do that actually make a big difference? So often I feel an impulse to write a note, make a call, or send an email but then I let something else that seems more important elbow that impulse out of my mind and the moment is lost. Based on Dr. Ed Young's example and the impact his graciousness had in my life, I've recommitted myself to not let those promptings pass.

So what about you? What nudges from the Holy Spirit have you ignored? Who do you need to reach out and thank or encourage today? What little thing is God prompting you to do right now because He knows that it will make a big difference in someone else's life?

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