The Ballestero Blog

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He Prayed For The Big Church Across Town

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Pastor Miller hung the phone up and slumped into the chair. This was unbelievable! It was sickening. He sensed the pending devastation.

The voice mail on his cell phone announced that a 3rd couple in two months wanted to move their membership across town to the big church.

Only a handful of families were left here now. Would the nightmare ever stop? It was like a hemorrhage that was unending. The families that had left weren’t content to just go, they pulled on the remaining ones with reports of how wonderful things were at the new church. Their family and friends wavered in their loyalties. Who knew where it would stop. His church wasn’t growing. It was shrinking and he couldn’t stop the process.

No letter of transfer was ever asked for, and the other pastor had never called when someone moved in. He didn’t want to accuse the pastor across town of trying to proselyte, but the members there didn’t hesitate to do it for him.

The big church had quite a few people with money. They could afford to hire a full-time music director. They had also imported a youth pastor that was given full reign and a handsome expense account to attract and entertain young people. He did his job well, evidently. He personally encouraged all the young people in town to be a part of his youth group.

The bigger church had concerts, dramas, guitar driven worship, newer songs, fog machines, strobe lights, multimedia presentations, Power Points and many well-known guest speakers. A Starbucks type coffee shop was just down the hall from the entrance. The aroma always drew a crowd. Their church always had something going on there.

It was impossible for the pastor Miller’s small church to compete with the big boys. He had neither the resources nor the staff. He worked a secular job just to keep the wolf away from the door.

He had nearly broken his health trying to dig a church out of nothing. He had been ethical to a fault. He had never taken anyone from another church.

He personally had won most of the people in his church. He had taught almost every one there a Home Bible Study. He had prayed them through. He had baptized them. So this is the thanks he gets? How does he stop the migration? He didn’t want to feel jealous or harbor bad thoughts, but it still didn’t feel good. His wife was devastated. Now, there was little chance the church would be self-supporting anytime soon.

He knew the Pentecostals in town considered him “old school”.  He still had testimony service. His church even sang out of the songbook. They sang many choruses were those sung by previous generations.

A piano and a box guitar provided the music. They used to have a drummer, but he had moved across town to the big church.

Bro. Miller had never been invited to preach a special meeting in his life. He knew he never would be asked.

Two special needs adults in his church always caused distractions to visitors. One often spoke out loud at the wrong time and had to be treated like a child.

The $41.43 in the Sunday night offering last week didn’t pay much on the utilities or church payment. His people were poor. He had to help most of them survive. He had paid utilities for many of his people, helped a few times with their house payments. He’d even co-signed for a car, once or twice.

The girls in the big church called the young girls in his church ‘grandmas’. Their modest apparel was scorned as unnecessary. At the big church, not much was said about standards evidently. (That was an unkind thought he knew, but he’s not been impressed by what he’d seen in the mall.)

There was no one for pastor Miller to complain to, confide in or cry with. He privately wished that the Prophet Nathan would go across town and preach the story of the ‘one ewe lamb’ again. It seemed fitting.

When he heard reports about ‘revival’ and church growth across town, he knew where some of the growth had come from.

Life didn’t seem fair. He made up his mind that he would paste a smile on his face, keep doing his best to have good church, preach like there was a house full, not talk about those that left, and encourage the rest.

God would sort it all out some how. He was trying to help build God’s Kingdom, not his own. He would not allow a war to go on. He didn’t know what to do.

So Pastor Miller took advantage of his off-night and went to his church by himself. He went up to the altar in the empty sanctuary and knelt down to pray.

He only prayed for one thing. He prayed for the church across town. He prayed that God would give them a great harvest of souls. He prayed that God would abundantly bless them. He prayed for the Pastor, for their leaders, and for the members. He prayed for their finances and for their outreach efforts.

He prayed for them, like he wished someone, somewhere would pray for him. He prayed for the big church across town, like he wished someone would pray for the church he pastored.



Written by Martyn Ballestero

August 31, 2011 at 12:01 am

Posted in Church Planting, Prayer

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19 Responses

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  1. I hope this is not the end of this story….I have seen this happen so many fact, it happened to my husband and me….all you can do is give it to God, and let Him “sort it all out…” and He will in His time. There is a season for everything…what an awesome God we serve!


    August 31, 2011 at 1:47 am

  2. people seem to want the easy way out lets go where we can be as we were before God changed my life

    Chuck Mihlan

    August 31, 2011 at 9:01 am

  3. I’ve watched my father go through this same phenomenon. Heart rending for sure!

    Wyonna Smith

    August 31, 2011 at 10:20 am

  4. Thank you for posting this. I would love to put it on my Facebook for all to see, but I am a member of the ‘big’ church you describe. It sickens me to see it. I was in a ‘smaller’ church like you have described before moving to this area. I miss my ‘smaller’ church tremendously. And where Pastor Miller prays for the big church, I take my night off and pray for the big church to find it’s way back to being a ‘small’ church spiritually and maybe dynamically. Bro. Ballestero, if you have any words of wisdom for a ‘big’ church member please share….I need them.


    August 31, 2011 at 11:02 am

  5. Seen this… more than once. Watched and prayed over the heartbreak, disillusionment, and the questions that inevitably follow…
    1.) the new (baby) saints who’ve never seen anything like this before,
    2.) the faithful ones who weep as they keep on plugging,
    3.) the pastor and his wife who deal with the stigma and the backlash, (not to mention their own distress,)
    4.) seducing spirits – on the phone, the internet & in person – spreading inuendo and doubtful disputation,
    5.) the innocent ones caught up in the net of willful flesh,
    6.) the ensuing confusion and wounding of the Body of Christ – in both the small AND the big church.
    The question is: who wins in situations like these?

    The answer: We know Who wins ultimately… and we know Who teaches us to be overcomers IN THIS life… Moreover, we have been told repeatedly where we must fasten our focus. Therefore, the secret (See point #2 above.) to victory is contained in the following verses…
    “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shown toward His Name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Hebrews 6:10)
    “And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9)
    “…Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25b)
    (See also I Corinthians 4:1-5; I Peter 4:4-5.)

    Marjorie Kinnee

    August 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm

  6. I left the “big church” because I was drawn to the stricter standards of the “small church.”
    I pray for the “big church.” I pray that they will find their way again.
    Someone else said this and I am echoing their request. Please, if you have any words of wisdom for “big church” members (or former members who still have friends there), please, please share!


    August 31, 2011 at 2:29 pm

  7. My Dad has pastored a small church for a number of years. Mom and Dad have often quietly payed the church bills out of their own pocket when attendance was low or the offerings were lacking. They have mowed the lawn, cleaned the church, and made repairs themselves. They worked with people and saw backsliders be renewed only to then leave for a larger church. Through all the many disappointments they have held on. The lighthouse is still open because of their dedication and persistence. They are my heroes.


    August 31, 2011 at 11:53 pm

  8. What makes this even more heart breaking and devestating for the “Bro. Millers” is when the ones who leave spread lies against the pastor and even the ones left in the small churches! I saw it in our own church, saw how our pastor had to labor under the added burden of holding onto his integrity in the face of all that was happening! But I also saw God work it out. No the people who leave don’t always–in fact don’t usually–come back but God can and will make up the difference!

    Crystal Smith (Morris)

    September 1, 2011 at 12:37 am

  9. Hebrews 4:15-18

    15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

    16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need

    Joseph LaGrone

    September 1, 2011 at 2:30 am

  10. Thank you, Bro. Ballestero for letting God use you in such a way.


    September 1, 2011 at 7:02 am

  11. My thanks to Brother Ballestero for continuing to encourage through these articles. It reminds me of the many letters the Apostle Paul wrote to in so many churches…. Brother McKinney

    Brother McKinney

    September 1, 2011 at 5:21 pm

  12. Bro. Ballestero – We’ve been there – done that! Integrity and honesty will still be the ultimate winners.

    Darla Christensen

    Darla Christensen

    September 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm

  13. Elder Ballestero,
    Pastor Miller is so acting like a Christian.We will be judged by our actions and reactions by the judge of all men.Our peace comes through applying 1 Peter 3: 8-12. Kudos for this thought provoking article

    Dwayne Christensen

    September 4, 2011 at 2:28 pm

  14. I just wonder what ever happened to the Spirit of love and the desire to see God’s kingdom grow everywhere? The big church could have first stayed right, and then been like some of the elders that I know that have been helpful to the small church across town instead of pulling away the saints that they didn’t win.

    Michel Heimoz

    September 5, 2011 at 11:36 am

  15. Brother Jeremiah lost his entire congregation. Some of the ones that left not only bad-mouthed him, but tried to kill him. It wasn’t his fault. Only the passage of time proved him right.

    One Of Them

    September 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm

  16. Thank you Brother Ballestero for sharing this powerful story. I hope you don’t mind if I share it with others.

    Andy Harris

    February 21, 2015 at 7:31 pm

  17. I read this post wanted to cry. I have seen this situation and I have been in this situation. Stay with your small church. No one will love you like a small church.


    July 12, 2015 at 12:12 pm

  18. It really is a conundrum; knowing the Lord wants you to gather in all you can through the truth of His Word, and knowing you can win more with a larger facility, but then – you also begin losing ‘contact’. with your saints. You can’t possibly remember all those names, or greet any of your original ones for trying to welcome all the new ones. People get truly ‘lost’ in mega churches. They came in as nobodies, prayed through, but are still – nobodies. I’m in a SMALL church and I’m so glad, and in the original bldg. built in 1966. We have our own ACE school which graduates 5 to 10 Srs. every year. “Daughter’ works are the answer to mega churches. That way each one stays ‘manageable’. No, I’m not in the ‘business end of my church; just a 76 yr. old saint with God’s common sense.

    Sydney Heimericks

    November 11, 2018 at 8:20 pm

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