God brought me on a journey so I could meet Joe Humrichous (pronounced: HUM rick house). The physical journey was an uneventful trip to northeast Indiana.
The spiritual journey was more exciting. I had just finished writing, A Really Great Church! in which I sought to point my readers to the sufficiency of Christ for local churches. “Because of the greatness of God, every church can be a really great church.”
Added together, the all-too-often outcome is: Christians abandoning their small-town churches and driving considerable distances to attend larger congregations in larger towns. It’s really not much different from the phenomenon of small towns losing their grocery stores, hardware stores, car dealers and cafes, excepting that the consequences of losing their churches are so much worse.
In the midst of my painful prayers for my brethren in shrinking churches in dying villages I’ve clung tenaciously to some basic presuppositions:
- God still wants small towns to have churches which are sharing the life-changing good news about Christ.
- The living presence of Christ Himself is sufficient, not only to have churches in small towns continue to exist, but for these churches to be infused with the power and presence of Christ.
- If we think we cannot have great churches without hundreds of people, beautiful buildings and talented staff members, then there must be something wrong with our paradigm, not God’s provision.
My mind kept going back to the Christians who led me to Jesus: a Christian group on a college campus. These “kids” (most of them were about 20 years old) had no church building, no musical equipment, no money and no leaders (except for one campus representative). They had nothing but Christ and because they had Christ and His good news, they had joy, passion, hope and a very attractive culture.
My mind also kept returning to the many promises of the New Testament which seem to provide a “blank check” from God for a fantastic church. Unless God’s spiritual bank account has gone bust, it must still be possible for small places to have awesome churches!
And then God arranged for me to meet Joe Humrichous, a self-described revivalist and “one trick pony” (the “one trick” is tapping into the sufficiency of Christ for His churches). Joe’s thinking begins where mine left off. My excited exclamation was, “It has to be possible for small towns to have great churches; we just need a new/old paradigm that doesn’t include all the ‘stuff’ that we think we have to have!” Joe’s quiet answer was: “Maybe you didn’t notice that the name of my ministry is “Paradigm One.”
Before I send you to Joe’s web site, let me whet your appetite with a few thoughts from Joe’s books, The Vine And The Church and Lead Pastor. [Statements without quotation marks are my paraphrases]
- “Life’s ultimate privilege is having Christ at my table.”
- Quoting Oliver Price’s Pray With Christ (originally published as, The Power of Praying Together; Experiencing Christ Actively In Charge) “Revival is Jesus Christ, obviously present and actively in charge.”
- “The fruitfulness of the church is determined by its intentional practice of abiding in the vine.”
- Many of our problems are the result of “defective abiding.”
- “The enemy of the church is carried into the assembly on the back of human pride.”
- “Church ministry has only one driver: intimacy with Jesus.”
- “The dynamic life of Christ is the soul of the church.”
- “There’s a Spirit-led art to building a team.”
- Jesus sees a cold heart as a reason to close a church down.
- “Christ in you and through you and with you is the answer for everything.”
- “Jesus became my salvation, my sufficiency and my satisfaction.”
- The infrastructure of the church should be built around keeping Jesus as our first love.
- “The life and authority of Christ [in our churches] continues by regular acts of worship.”
- “After 50 years of ministry, I am hopelessly fascinated with the potential of the church.”
So is there hope for the small town church? Oh yes! As long as Christ is there, there is great hope!
Check out Joe’s ministry at www.paradigm1.org