Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 15, 1951
NUMBER 44, PAGE 12-13b

The Big And The Little

A. H. Porterfield, Poplar Bluff, Mo.

That there is entirely too much of this "big" and "little" people, "big" and "little" preacher, "big" and "little" church stigmatism going on among us today no one can successfully deny. It does seem to us that any thinking person could see the danger of such trends. Such is the very spirit of the Pharisee which was so often and so stoutly condemned by our Saviour.

Whether we realize it not, to invoke such phrases puts us under marked suspicion of insincerity and bigotry. For there is a large element of condescension in it. The idea seems to be, "I'm 'big' and you're 'little,' therefore I must be your protecting angel."

The truth is, among people of good will with a real understanding and a deep feeling for others, there is no classification of people as "big" and "little." A man may be downtrodden, an underdog, underprivileged and in need of help. But that does not make him little. Really, he may be bigger than his would-be superior. He is usually the man with an understanding heart, and who will willingly wade through slush and mud and soil his hands and clothes for others. He knows what it means. What does a man who has been absorbed in riches all his life know about poverty? Nothing—absolutely nothing. The man who knows poverty can understand those in poverty, and it is usually that type of man who makes the greater sacrifice for those in need. So, in spite of the fact that he has been dubbed as such, he is not a little man. At least, he is not little because he has been less fortunate than others.

Who can imagine women, especially women who pose as Christians, snubbing others who have been less fortunate than themselves? Who can see Christ in such behavior? Will such tactics ever convert souls to Christ? Not only does such conduct have its humiliating effect, but its destructive effect is beyond words to express. Therefore, the extreme danger is very apparent.

How often do we hear or read the expression "big preacher" and "little preacher?" To use either expression in reference to gospel preachers is a reflection. There is no such thing with the Lord, nor with true Christians as "big" and "little" preachers. Some preachers may go out of their way in order to build for themselves a big name. But does that make them big? The biggest preachers anybody ever heard about were Christ and His apostles. How man of that number were referred to as "big" or "little" preacher, doctor, reverend, "our pastor," our "minister?"

Preachers may not always be at fault for being branded by such high-sounding titles. But we should remember that when we use such titles in referring to preachers some of them may like it. Some do. Let us not spoil a good man and an otherwise good gospel preacher by calling him by such titles. He may think he deserves it. He may come to the point that he actually thinks he is "it." We once heard J. D. Tant say in a gospel meeting at Strawberry, Ark., "If there is anybody in all this world that needs preaching to its preachers." Not that preachers are any worse than others, but they are equally as human—just as subject to temptation, errors and blunders as anyone—big or little. A preacher who will allow himself to be called by such high-sounding titles without registering his objection has never looked very big to some of us.

It may be easy for some preacher to build for himself a big name. By why should he want a big name? Is that his purpose in life? Is that preaching Christ and Him crucified? Is that saving souls? is that a necessary evil? Look at the so-called "little preacher." We know several who are thought of as such, but we are thinking especially of one who no doubt has baptized more people, made more real Christians, established more congregations than a dozen would-be doctors. I am not certain that the man knows a noun from a verb, but he does know that Book, he believes it, he loves it, he preaches it, he does the best he knows how to live it, and what a world of good that man has done! Try calling him doctor or reverend! Oh, no, he will not try to insult you for it, but he will try to teach you better whether you have a Ph.D. degree or an old beck-and-plow degree. When he arises before his audience to preach the gospel, his pride and his dignity are buried in his love for the gospel he preaches, the church that cost heaven so much, the souls that are saved or lost! He has given his whole life—in fact, his all, for the Cause this world needs so much! But now-Now! He is being laid on the shelf and forgotten, and waiting to pass the way of all the earth! When that time comes, who will sing his praises? Not that he wants praises, but where is the big preacher who will tell the world of the immeasurable good that humble man of God has done?

I do not envy preachers for wearing titles, but I am ashamed of them. Don't you imagine the Lord is also ashamed of them? At the Judgment will He brand them with some special name and honor them above their fellows? "Think on these things."

The same attitude of condescension crops up between the so-called "big" and "little" churches. Some of the "big churches" exhibit excessive qualities of showmanship in their efforts to take over the so-called "little churches." They seem to be saying, "See how broadminded we are—how big? We are the mother hen. Let us hover your little brood and protect them for you. Of course, you can do the scratching for yourselves and us, and we'll do the clucking."

My dear brethren, if you have a real understanding of your duties to the smaller congregations, your concern for their welfare comes easily, almost automatically. You only help them until they can stand alone, then get away and let them alone. They may prove to be bigger in the true sense of the word than some congregations who outstrip them in number. Just because a congregation has a greater number than another does not mean that it is bigger in the eyes of the Lord. The biggest things the Lord has ever done was done through the "few" and not the "many." You do not have to parade your sympathy and bigness to convince intelligent people of your interest in their welfare; your behavior will reveal that. Even small congregations do not wish to be treated as wards of children. They love to feel at all times that they are just as big—scripturally and spiritually—as any congregation, as they most certainly are, if they are true to the Book. If those who preach the gospel to them will preach all the gospel, no more and no less, they will soon learn what the Lord wants done, and if they refuse to do it, we still have no right to step in and take charge, nor do we have any right to step in and wield an over-powering human influence over them to draw them into a man-made pattern. If the gospel will not move them they cannot be moved in a way that will please the Lord, for His gospel is His only moving power.

If those high-sounding terms and phrases were never used again, it would be much healthier for the Church of our Lord.