My mother says that sometimes, being Glaswegian and all. I think I may petition for it to become part of the jargon of the Church. Of course, a muckle is preferable to a meikle but a meikle is better than nowt.
For those who aren’t familiar with this age-old phrase, here is a translation:
~ Many small things make a big thing. ~
Being young and therefore prone to over-enthusiasm (evangelism, church planting, and gospel work in general gets me buzzing), it’s hard not to be irked when people say that today is a day of small things. Here is another translation:
~ Nothing’s happening very fast if it’s happening at all. ~
This morning was spent doing research with a church planter in training. We were researching an area for a plant. I decline to disclose the precise location of course but of the hundred and twenty eight churches that we found in that fifty mile radius, there were five that were alive and three which were struggling but probably still alive. Even worse, I can tell you that this poor statistical account is not unique to this particular spot.
Our church has recently planted another in the North of the city. It’s good that we’ve had more response than ever before but next to none of those responses were kind. Eastern spirituality, meditation, and mindfulness are on the rise. It is common for people to go to the spookie (fortune teller) on a night out. More and more people are not just atheistic but bitterly antitheistic.
These are not good days that we live in, you’d have to be living in a hole in the ground somewhere to deny it. But the world has been having a bad day ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit.
Granted, it is hard not to look back on those periods of history famous for their revivals and wish that the same thing would happen now but we cannot constantly live always half looking back over our shoulders. We have to look forwards to the coming kingdom and rise up and build all God gives us in our day.
Wishing for Muckles
All my life I’ve dreamed big. I was going to be a missionary doctor in India. Then I was going to be an equine physiotherapist and take the gospel to the Arab world. Then I was going to run homes for pregnant women in America so that we could end abortion. Then I was going to do a PhD and work to bring true faith back into the heart of academic theology.
That takes us up to last December.
Are you a dreamer too? Are you, like me, young (or not so young) and dissatisfied with leaving the world to its current downwards trajectory and determined to change it for the better?
If you aren’t, what happened to you? What kind of Christian doesn’t want to see change and healing in this broken world? If you are though, you may need to reorder your thinking somewhat.
It is good to do big things and to desire to see big things happen in our day but the Empire State Building, the Colosseum, and Buckingham Palace all have three things in common: they’re enormous, they’re stunning, and they were all made over a very long period of time using lots of little bricks.
The point is that it is good and right (mostly) to dream big and to ask God to do great things in our day but if we constantly wish we had a house like the Queen, we’ll lose our perspective and grow discontent with laying brick by brick by brick.
Forever wishing for a day of big things becomes justification for complacency in the church and it’s a day of small things has, at times, been used as an unofficial excuse for churches to do nothing.
Rapid growth born of an incredible move of God would be wonderful and truly amazing but we forget that rapid growth comes with its own set of challenges and pitfalls. The benefit of many small things as opposed to one big thing is that it teaches us patience, diligence, and discipline and allows us to take time digging solid foundations.
Working with Meikles
Brick by brick over hundreds of years, Edinburgh was built. Now people come from all over the world to marvel at its beauty. One of the reasons that I like drinking coffee here is that it allows me to watch the tourists juggling maps, cameras and awe as they try to come to terms with the age and grandeur of the place.
We may be living in a day of small things but let it never become an excuse to do nothing. A day of small things is not a day of no things.
I’m not denying that Scotland is a ridiculously hard place in which to evangelise and church-plant. I’m just saying that there are regular baptisms and people are being added to our churches. Men are stepping up and being mentored and trained. Churches are beginning to understand the value of working together.
It’s not that nothing is happening, it’s just that the base layer of any masterful painting never looks like much. The small things that the church has been lamenting for as long as I can remember are starting to come together in some semblance of a picture and it’s exciting and just a little scary because God is clearly doing something great through all these small and seemingly unconnected things.
From what I can see and hear, the churches in Scotland are walking a knife edge between death and life and God is moving a hundred little pieces into place so that his church might flourish, not fold.
We mustn’t lament the day of small things, nor use it as an excuse for inactivity. Rather it should be a cathartic statement filling us with awe and excitement for what God is doing.
Remember that mony a meikle maks a muckle and next time someone says that it is a day of small things, let that statement send shivers down your spine. Be faithful in these small things because we are helping to build something great, laying the foundations for the church of future generations brick by tiny brick. Do so faithfully so that what is being built may stand firm for generations to come and the world will come and marvel at its beauty.
Do not fear. Do not despair. Rise up and build, strengthen your hands for this good work (Nehemiah 2.18).