Do you remember the famous children’s book: “The Little Engine that Could?” A train full of toy animals, dolls and every kind of thing boys or girls could want was stranded and could not get over the mountain to the village of children on the other side. What would they do?
- A shiny new engine, asked by the dolls and toys to help replied, “I pull the likes of you? I am a passenger engine. Indeed not!”
- A big engine, stopped by the toy clown waving a flag said, “I am a freight engine. I am a very important engine indeed. I won’t pull the likes of you!”
- A rusty old engine when asked replied: “I am so tired. I must rest. I can not. I can not. I can not.”
A very little engine was asked next by the dolls and toys and saw the tears in their eyes before replying, “I’m not very big, but I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”
“Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the Little Blue Engine. ‘I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can.’”
We all know the ending of the story. “‘Hurray, hurray,’ cried the funny little clown and all the dolls and toys. ‘The good little boys and girls in the city will be happy because you helped us, kind and little blue engine.’ And the little blue engine smiled and seemed to say as she puffed steadily down the mountain. ‘I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could.’”
There are plenty of Churches who behave much as the engines in the story.
- There is the shiny new church that says to people in need: “I’m too busy paying for my new building!”
- There are large mega churches who reply: “I’m too busy with my own ministries.”
- There are far too many established churches struggling to survive who say: “I’m too tired and discouraged to help you!”
Meanwhile there are people all around who desperately need to hear the hope only God’s church can offer.
There was one very little church in Jetersville, Virginia, however, which had once been vibrant and full of life, but was now struggling. On a typical Sunday morning there would only be ten or twelve people, but they prayed about the needs of their community and two from their church joined a year-long intensive Bible study. During one class both people felt the need to open their very little church to an after-school ministry for local school children: “With God’s help,” they said, “I think I can — I think I can — I think I can?”
Within a few weeks, thirty children were being dropped off at the same, very little church where they would be greeted with cookies and begin an hour and a half of fun, music, games and Bible study. Over the next few months and years, some of those children along with their parents began attending this same little church. “With God’s help…I think I can — I think I can — I think I can.”
One man in the same community had a heart attack and nearly died. While in the hospital, he made a vow to serve God more faithfully and come to this same very little church. Another man, discouraged with church life brings his whole family looking for a fresh start. Both men become a source of inspiration and motivation for others. “With God’s help…I think I can — I think I can — I think I can!”
A new year-long Bible study is started, but this time the very little church now has its own class full of people who are looking for answers and seeking ways to serve God. One woman in the class persuades her whole family into joining the Bible study, while another woman begins teaching youth in the Sunday school. A couple living together asks to be married in the same little church. The class forms a choir. “With God’s help…I think I can — I think I can — I think I can!!”
Years later this same little church would start a thrift store down the street. The thrift store grew and grew as more and more people in the community were helped. This thrift store would become the nucleus of a brand new church that is now serving people throughout the area.
Meanwhile the original very little church after losing many of their members prayed to God for help. One by one, they came: New people and former members began to come as this same very little church, now larger, now stronger continued to grow and serve.
“Hurray, hurray,” cries this preacher and people everywhere as this very little church, now the proud parent of a new church should be smiling as she puffs steadily on in service of God.
And God replies: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The little church says: “With God’s help, we thought we could — we thought we could — we thought we could!!” With God’s help, you can too!