Neal Pollard

I grew up in Georgia mostly attending congregations that weren’t numerically large.  I never attended a church of more than 200 until I went to college, but even then the two churches I preached for during that time were smaller than that. I have preached full-time for three congregations, and two of them were smaller than 200. Yet, when I speak of small congregations, I am talking about those less than 50.  They typically have a hard time supporting a preacher full-time, almost never have elders or much spiritual leadership at all, and would often consider themselves to be “struggling” in some way.  While they have their share of weaknesses and reasons for being small—from internal strife to a lack of evangelistic zeal—they are special and valuable to God and often striving to get Christ into their communities.  Out here in the west, I’ve attended several of them in Colorado, Utah, Kansas, Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico, and California.  But it is not a phenomenon unique to regions outside the Bible belt.  My father works to help and strengthen churches in the Carolinas in that state, as he did for so many years in Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and even Tennessee.  My brother and I both began full-time preaching in small churches in Alabama.  Rural America is full of small churches, but we are fully aware that these exist on every continent and many nations.  Some countries have fewer than 50 Christians in them, and there are even nations where the Lord’s church does not exist.

Having recently been with a small congregation, I was reminded of how big their faith, sense of family, and desire to make an impact for the Lord such churches can be.  I visited with a man who was one of about 5 members in a church about 50 miles from Twin Falls, Idaho.  They support a preacher in Kenya, mass media via Gospel Broadcasting Network (GBN), and buy Bibles to distribute in several nations. Their building is paid for and they are so desirous of doing whatever they can to reach their tiny community but also the global community.  Would you really call them a “small congregation”?

I have been exposed to more than one church where hundreds or more attended that rarely grow except through membership transfer, whose activities are heavily weighted inwardly—focused on entertaining, pleasing, and spending on themselves, and whose leaders are visionless and whose pulpits are powerless.  Couldn’t we call these “small congregations” in a way much more tragic?

I don’t want to ever be a part of a small congregation.  Even if the group with whom I work and worship are a few dozen or a handful, I pray I will do what I can to help them dream, plan, and do big things and not be small.  Our Lord is big and great.  The church is His body and as such should never be small!

church history

A Wonderful Legacy

Neal Pollard

It is a blessing to be in a family of preachers.  Though the men in my personal heritage have not necessarily been well-known to our entire brotherhood, their faithfulness and steadiness has proven exemplary to me.    Three uncles are or have been gospel preachers for several decades.  A cousin is a Bible professor in one of our Christian colleges.  His father was a preacher in the Atlanta area for many years.  My brother, brother-in-law, and father-in-law all preach.

My father, who has been preaching the gospel for 50 years, has started a program called “Carolina Outreach” to try and help struggling congregations in the Carolinas.  There are scores of congregations in both states doing all they can to keep open their doors.  Of course, like so many works, he is in great need of financial help to aid his ability to do this (the work is overseen by the North Charleston congregation in Charleston, South Carolina).

What is ironic in the most wonderful way is that my dad is standing on the shoulders of another man in our family.  My great-grandfather, Gilbert F. Gibbs, worked with T.H. Burton to establish the “first congregation of present churches of Christ in South Carolina” and “directly or indirectly had part in most now there” (from a tract published about him in Lawrenceburg, TN, in 1970).  A 1918 graduate of David Lipscomb, Grandpa Gibbs went to Union, South Carolina, with brother Burton to establish the work there.  In 1921, they went and held a tent meeting in Greenville and planted the church there.  In both cases, Christians converted in other places moved to South Carolina and found that the church was not in existence in their communities.  Grandpa Gibbs did local work in Tennessee and Indiana and did foreign missions in Canada, Puerto Rico, St. Croix and on the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa.  But perhaps his greatest evangelistic legacy may have been in the Carolinas throughout most of the 1920s.

We don’t think of the Carolinas as a mission field, but it is certainly not part of the Bible belt as we think of it.  The need continues to be great to evangelize and edify the church of this part of the world.  I can think of no one more capable than my dad.  We do not have very many wealthy or famous relatives, but I could not want a better family legacy than I have.  Please pray for “Carolina Outreach” and help if you can!