The Galilean ministry is finished, and Jesus is at home. In the next chapter, Jesus begins the trip to Jerusalem and the cross. In the important time between the public ministry and the journey to Golgotha, Matthew records Jesus’ teaching about how the church ought to behave.
I once had a chance to talk to a priest of a large and vibrant church, “What is the secret to growing a big church?” I asked, the priest answered, “If you want to get big, you must learn to think small.” He went on to say that the leadership of his church was continually asking questions like, “What is the full experience of a single mother with a ten-year-old and a toddler who arrives at our church on Sunday morning? Does she know where to park? Is there help for her when it is raining? Does she know where she is supposed to go and how to get her children to the right places?” He explained to us that his leadership had adopted a disciplined approach of thinking small.
This might have been mostly about church growth; however, it may be that he was cultivating an important gospel theme. The story of the shepherd with a hundred sheep calls every church to think smaller. How do we assure that we do not get so caught up in the big ideas of our church and community that we fail to meet the ministry needs of the one? How do we adopt a pastoral sensitivity that personalizes the gospel for individual persons?
We could make the case that the church of Jesus Christ has suffered from not thinking big enough and bold enough. We could also make the case, however, that Jesus is calling us in this chapter of Matthew’s Gospel to think smaller. If we continue to give pastoral attention to the small matters of church life, then the weeds of discord will not strangle the growth of God’s kingdom. We have a pastoral challenge to think small enough to chase down the lost sheep.
Giltus Mathias CP is a Passionist living in St.Brigid’s Retreat, Marrickville, Australia.