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Start Small, Grow Tall

“Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.” SS 2:15  

“Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.” James 3:4  

Let’s talk about real life, about where we live, walk, talk and think on a daily basis.  Most of us don’t live on a grand scale, we don’t deal with billions of dollars, we don’t crisscross the globe every week on jumbo jets. 


We consider ourselves common, ordinary, average people who are just living our lives in day-to-day routines, with average expectations, and ordinary outcomes.  The problem is that we have a mindset known as scalability.  It is an engineering term, and also a computer-designing terms that reflects the ability of a process to expand or decrease to meet demand levels.  

According to, “Scalable — or scalability — is a term most often encountered in the business/finance world, typically applied to a process, product, model, service, system, data size, or activity. It’s a question of growth that evaluates important criteria in order to determine feasibility and value for any given product or service.  When someone asks, “Can it scale?” they want to know how well the manufacturing or service process can be expanded or shrunk to meet different requirements, such as: Greater demand, Reduced demand, Sudden power outages or other types of output problems, Time to market, Return on investment.” 

Now, let’s apply this concept of scalability to you.  For example, if you have a growing family, say going from one to four kids, it changes the way you shop for groceries, the time you spend cooking, the way you apportion your dishes, not to mention the money you spend, especially as they get older.  The recipes don’t change, but the size and amount of the ingredients change.  (We’re not even getting into the housing space you need, the gas and electric you use, the clothes you buy, the amount of washing you do, the number of Christmas presents you need, and on and on.) 

And then, there’s the empty-nest syndrome.  When the kids get older and move out, you start scaling back.  It messes up some people.  They know how to cook for an army; they don’t know how to cook for two people.  And when some families are reduced to one person, many of you don’t like to cook at all!  It seems that when the scale gets too small, life loses its luster, food doesn’t taste as good, nice clothes don’t seem as important, taking care of things don’t drive your activity and desire as they once did.  

As a matter of fact, when many people reach this stage, they rapidly start to decline in their health, their hygiene, their social activities and their interest in life in general.  They don’t take care of themselves as they should because they lose incentive.  When something is big, it seems important.  When something is too small, it doesn’t matter.  

Divine Metrics 

God has never operated on a scalability basis.  He has never put truth on some sort of metric.  His scale is absolute.  He doesn’t place truth into context, that if things were important enough, or the stakes were high enough, or the outcome was powerful enough, or if the people were high-profile enough, then He would place more emphasis on being truthful.  No.  In God’s economy, truth is truth, false is false, sin is sin, right is right, love is love, hate is hate, good is good, evil is evil, no matter the scale in which it exists. 

Consider Abraham’s prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah:  “And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:23-25  

Abraham’s prayer went from fifty down to ten, and each time God agreed to grant his request.  Notice in this passage, that God did not place a number on his willingness to grant deliverance or mercy.  He did not gauge his punishment or his salvation on the enormity of Sodom’s sin, the foolishness of Lot or the virtue signaling to the world.  He measured his promise on the basis of Abraham’s prayer.  

Plastic People 

People are plastic, that means that human beings often change to fit their environment or context.  We are prone to judge something as good or bad, as acceptable or non-acceptable depending on how important it is in the general scheme of things.  Let me put this in terms of a few questions: 

  • Is it okay to be rude if a person is not very important to you?
  • Is it okay to curse if the situation or person really deserves it?
  • Is it okay to cheat on your taxes if the amount is too small to notice?
  • Is it okay to lie if telling the truth would get you into trouble?
  • Is it okay to steal from your workplace it your boss owes you anyway?
  • Is it okay to be immoral if your husband or wife is a fool?
  • Is it okay to disobey God’s Word once-in-a-while if you are usually obedient? 

Now, I can hear somebody say, “Hey, nobody is perfect! We all make mistakes.”  True enough, but here’s the catch.  When you make a mistake, do you call it a mistake, or do you justify it?  Nobody is perfect, but should we make imperfection our standard of behavior? If we can sin with impunity, then why do these scriptures exist? 

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:7-10   

Scalability allows us to expand or shrink our sin, our mistakes, our problems to a harmless, or even innocent state.  We can be dismissive of something that we consider small or insignificant but can actually have huge consequences.  We live in the era of the “MeToo” movement in which flirtatious behavior like winking, commenting, kissing or touching can cost a person’s job or land him or her in jail.  What you may think is stupidly small may be inexcusably big in the eyes of someone else. 

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger broke apart seventy-three seconds into flight, killing its seven crew members. The entire vehicle disintegrated after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The failure caused a breach joint, allowing pressurized hot gas to reach an external fuel tank. The structural failure of the external tank broke up the orbiter.  The O-ring breakup caused the disaster.  The Challenger catastrophe tragically illustrates the importance of one thing.  

While preaching some time ago in Greenville, Ohio, I used this illustration.  A woman came up to me afterwards and said, “Brother Jordan, I may have been the one to made that O-ring!  I worked in the plant that manufactured O-rings for the space program.”  She felt terrible for a long time about that piece, but she found out later that it wasn’t her fault. The engineers at NASA should have scuttled the launch because the temperature was too low for the integrity and safety of the O-rings.  

In case you don’t think something small can hurt, consider these:  one bad apple in a barrel; a nail-puncture in a tire; a negative 1 in an equation; a single cancer cell; a trace of arsenic; a single insensitive tweet; one vote in an election; one point or run in a sports game; one disparaging look at a child.

The Mustard Seed 

We have been basically talking about the bad things that can happen as a result to underestimating the sin and mistakes that we make in life.  But the concept of scalability also hold true for the positive behaviors and outcomes.  Look no further than the parable of Jesus about the mustard seed.  “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” Matthew 17:20   

Just as we underestimate our sins, we overestimate the steps it takes to make things right.  We think that doing the right thing, doing what pleases God, making a difference represents such an astronomical output of effort that we are too intimidated to even begin.  How can I ever be as holy as the pastor?  How can I ever measure up to the great men or women in my life whom I admire?  How can I ever stand up to the bad habits, the wrong decisions or the evil influences that surround me every day?  

This kind of negative thinking is a non-starter.  The old saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” conjures of an image of the length of the journey before it focuses on the single step.  Think of it this way:

A life of Bible reading begins with a single scripture.

  • A prayer life takes only a simple prayer to get going.
  • A friendship begins with a smile or a word.
  • A better marriage begins with “I’m sorry.  Will you forgive me?”
  • A right relationship with God begins with confession.
  • Helping a friend begins with an encouraging word. 

Some of you who are new here don’t know that I can play a guitar.  In June of 2006, my wife and I decided to go to Wauseon to start a preaching point or daughter work.  We went to an elementary school with about 6 or 8 FAC people who lived west of Toledo and had a little service.  I provided the music, so you know it couldn’t have been much.  Somehow, it caught on and began to grow.  A year or so later, a situation in the church in Bryan resulted in some people who wanted to start a church.  The pastor asked me to take it under my wing as a daughter work.  Eventually, the two daughter works merged which resulted in autonomous church in Archbold today pastored by Bro. Jason Clutter.  We didn’t go from an elementary school library to a congregation in Archbold overnight.  It started small by doing something so small that it may have looked like nothing.  It is surprising how God take our nothings and turns them into somethings!  

Much has been said lately about a multiplication revival.  We’re talking churches in various places around the Toledo metro area.  This takes soulwinning to a level that may seem way beyond your personal capability.  Big plans, big ideas, You may have already crossed it off as an unattainable goal.  You may be making this much harder than it really is.  It may be time for you to Here is all it takes to get started: 

  • “I’m thinking about you.”
  • “I really appreciate you.”
  • “How can I help you?”
  • “Here is a bag of groceries.”
  • “I baked these cookies for you today. Enjoy.”
  • “I prayed for you today.”
  • “Mind if I shared a scripture with you?”
  • “I’d like for you to come to church with me Sunday.”
  • “How about coming over for a barbeque this week?” 

Guess what?  You don’t have to be an expert in the Bible to do any of these simple things.  You really don’t have to have expertise in anything.  So, why are we so reluctant to do any of them?  It’s because we don’t consider it to be worth our time or theirs.  We downplay, dismiss and underestimate small things as too insignificant to have much value.  

There is a fascinating verse found in the account of Elijah and the fire called down from heaven.  “And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So, Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” 1 Kings 18:41-46     

First, notice that Elijah heard the sound of the abundance of rain before the clouds ever formed in the sky.  Then, when the servant went out, he saw a tiny cloud that he described as a “man’s hand.”  Don’t discount this description.  There is meaning here.  It was not God’s hand.  It was a man’s hand.  Miracles begin with the injection of humanity into the equation.  E. M. Bounds said it this way, “Without God, man cannot.  Without man, God will not!”  You cannot sit around in a faithless, feckless, stymied, despondent, disparaged, lazy state and throw everything back into God’s lap.  You cannot bow out of the action and say, “God, if you want this done, you will have to do it by yourself!”  No.  Without faith, it is impossible to please God.  If you’re not willing to start small, you probably won’t start at all!  “Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.” Job 8:7  

“There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” John 6:9  

You can start right now.  Turn to someone and say, “I believe in you!”  There is no telling what all God can and will do with the slightest effort on your part. 

“For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.” Zechariah 4:10  

If u’re too big to start small,

u’re too small to start big,

said my pastor.
Start small, then grow tall:
advice of most mentors.
So when u’re up,
you can thank God;
appreciating those down-line.
Start small, then shine.

Ehimika Ehimigbai


Start close in,

don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To find
another’s voice
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step you don’t want to take.

~ David Whyte ~ 

A small lad, a small lunch, a small remnant, a small prayer, a small sacrifice, a small word, a small song, a small look, a small gesture, a small gift, a small acknowledgement, a small trip, a small invite, a small step, a small nod, a small smile—it’s not what you accomplish, it’s what you start. 

Don’t be overwhelmed by the big picture; start out with the stick figures.  See what God will do when you start small. 

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