Deep Imprints

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Is smaller church better?

churchFor several years, I’ve been asking myself this question – you see, I love big church. In fact, my favorite church size is about 600.

Yet in the back of my head, I hear the question:

Is it possible for a church to be healthy if it is large?

My study of ecclesiology (the nature and theology of church) shows me that most of our current forms are missing something vital: God’s in-breathing.

If the church is Christ’s body, then our life needs to come from Him. Instead, in most churches, we worship Jesus and live for Him like He is a pattern, and we are the dressmakers.

Jesus is supposed to be our life-blood. Our strength is supposed to come from Him – but every time we start adding structure so that our organizations can grow we seem to lose our focus – we forget He is our source – of ideas, vision, energy, focus, hope.

One of the signs of this distortion is that we don’t look to see what people God has given us (with their strengths, etc) and find our structure from that – instead, we decide our structure and recruit accordingly.

We forget that Jesus is the Source and start using structure to fulfill our deficiencies – which looks like power.

So when I read about Millennials in Adulthood, I began to wonder how their social differences are actually helping form the church of the future. I believe that God shapes the church despite our best efforts to control it. We get comfortable in our dysfunction, and only change when we are forced to.

This new generation of youth have more casual friendships, and fewer close friendships. They seem to have a more realistic view of life on planet earth – they see political parties as all mostly the same, they seem to understand that nobody is perfect (as opposed to those of us who were striving for perfection for so many years). What will a God-breathed church look like in this group of people?

I don’t have an answer – I just thought I’d share my questions. I’m still hoping that we will find a way to do big church without power plays and false religion. Hoping.

For more information on this topic, I challenge you to take a few minutes to reach Frank Viola’s new ebook. Yes, it is a sales piece for his program, but it also has amazing challenges for us all.

4 Comments

  1. Kim – Statistically, it is true that 2 churches of 200 will reach more unbelievers for Christ over a year than 1 church of 400. Having said that, I think it is risky and a bit pejorative to link being “God-breathed” with size. The church in Jerusalem in the book of Acts is said by some to have become a church of 10,000. The very, very, large churches in South Korea seem to have grown through a strong breeze of God’s breath. The comment on smaller groups is relevant here. I think God loves the whole church – small, medium, large, very large and beyond.

    I have heard many over the years express their love and preference for small churches. But are we being prideful in correlating God’s presence with size? Any “quantification” of this strikes me as unwise and may “bear false witness” against some sisters and brothers.

    • Kim

      19/03 at

      Thanks Gary. I think you are right. As with most things it causes us to take a step back and ask the’why’. When the answer is connection, the vehicle doesn’t matter.

  2. Cliff Gourley

    14/03 at

    Hi Kim. Many years ago as a part of my studies at Northwest I conducted a study on how to grow a church. A great deal of my research went into examining what large and even mega-churches did to become as large as they did. Keeping this short and sweet, the common denominator between nearly all, if not all (sorry, time has blurred the exact details) these churches, was their reliance on home-church groups. Congregational members would host church services in their homes under the supervision of pastoral staff. They found that many more people accepted invitations to attend church when it was held in smaller more familiar surroundings than if invited to a huge Sunday service. The ideal size of the home church, twelve (just another example the Bible providing guidance that we seem to overlook). When a group exceeded that number, another home-church was founded. This process led a small South Korean church from a small local church to become the world’s largest single congregation, over a million strong. Following that lead you get the best of both your worlds. In achieving this we truly will be doing God’s work, bringing Jesus to the masses one by one.

    • MoseZetta

      18/03 at

      Cliff Gourley’s reply was helpful.

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