Never Too Small to Multiply

Think you’re too small? Think again!

How would you function if your church maxed at 80 people, shrunk back to 20 and then swelled again to 80 and did that repeatedly for 35 years?

Some would give up, but not John Bacigalupo.

Dyslexic, he cheated his way into the U.S. Marine Corps (click the 3-minute video link below for that story). During a depression-induced suicide attempt, he met Jesus.

John landed in Hawaii shortly after we planted Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay.

We quickly recruited him to run our Children’s Church. He also led an in-house microchurch. People flocked to him, which is a sure sign of effective leadership.

The time came for a mandatory transfer to another duty station which needs a short explanation. The Marine Corps doesn’t allow back-to-back overseas duty stations for their personnel. John had come directly from Okinawa to Hawaii—a violation of policy. Now we were praying that he would get to return to Okinawa from Hawaii—a triple violation. The fact that the next rotation would be his last complicated all this. The military likes your final duty station to be near where you first joined, Boston for John.

We prayed. God answered!

John moved to Okinawa to plant the first Hope Chapel on Japanese soil—as a freelance pastor.

Getting caught using a military phone for church business was scary. His commanding officer demanded his church business card. When John handed it over, the guy informed him that there was a misprint. The guy wanted the number for the phone he was using on the business card. His observation was that the church did a lot for Marines and their families, so John’s office should double as his church office.

The church is bi-cultural. There are about 25 people in the Japanese language congregation. Military families dominate the English-speaking group. It grows and shrinks with each rotation of personnel. Micro at around 20, it swells to 80-100 as new marines relocate to the island.

That would depress a lot of pastors.

But not this guy. He perseveres. He retired from the Marines 3 years after arriving in Okinawa and planting the church. For nearly 40 years, this small (and smaller) church has made disciples and multiplied churches.

John is a retired marine “lifer.” As others do the same, they are good candidates for planting new churches. And some short-term military people marry women from Okinawa or the Philippines, which sets them up to live in two cultures. Some of these have planted churches among their wives ’ extended families.

There are nearly a dozen church plants in the Philippines, Okinawa, mainland Japan, and the United States East Coast.

Size does not preclude fruitfulness. Nor does it prevent innovation. For more on this, catch the 3-minute video at https://youtu.be/m7Km4mtvcoo