Karl Vaters: Today’s Small-Church Pastor
a five-part interview with the author of The Grasshopper Myth
In pastoral ministry for over 30 years, Karl Vaters has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 23 years. Cornerstone is a church of around 200 attendees in a region of the U.S. that Vaters describes as “Megachurch Central”. Not only is Rick Warren’s famous Saddleback Church about a half-hour from Cornerstone, but the area around Cornerstone is home to other megachurches and a few hundred large churches.
Vaters believes small churches – which are roughly 90% of churches worldwide – are not a problem, a virtue, or an excuse. They just are. And they can be pastored well. His heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to pastor their current churches well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring small churches. He also believes that big and small churches can and should work together more often – to the benefit of each.
Vaters caught the attention of many small-church leaders with his 2012 book The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. The book opens with the definition of “the grasshopper myth”:
The false impression that our Small Church ministry is less than what God says because we compare ourselves with others.
The origin of the myth is the story in Numbers 13 where the Israelites send a dozen men, included Joshua and Caleb, to explore Canaan. The spies return with a report that the land flows with milk and honey but is populated with powerful people who live in fortified cities. When Caleb tells Moses that the Israelites can take the land, the 10 (other than Joshua) advise that the people in the land are too strong, and end with, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
Vaters writes that the “treatment” for the grasshopper myth is the “New Small Church”, a “place of hope and healing” that has “discovered the benefits of thinking small”. The size of a small church is “a strategic advantage God wants to use”, and an effective small church operates with “vision, faith and courage”.
For the complete interview with Vaters, pick up a copy of Today’s Vital Church, Volume 2. For more insight from Vaters on innovative leadership from a small-church perspective, read his semi-weekly Pivot blog and visit NewSmallChurch.com.