The Day Of The Small Church
I’ve always said I’d rather serve 10 churches of 100, than lead one of 1000. Here’s a few reasons why I personally prefer smaller churches to big:
1) The Need to be Known. People know and are known much more easily in smaller churches. When there’s hundreds of people to pastor, they are inevitably processed through systems and pipelines, but in smaller churches, everyone is more easily known, loved, discipled and released, without endless classes and metric massaging systems. People want to be in a family, not a system. I’m not saying that people running processes can’t be loving and personal, it’s just that it’s harder when there’s hundreds to care for.
2) It’s Getting Expensive. Bang for buck, small churches are more productive. The average U.S.A attractional church spends £1.5 million per new, lasting salvation, on their big building/big stage models. Is there a better way – mobilising people instead of eventing perhaps?
3) The Temptation of Ego. The propensity towards pride, with big stages, crowds, famed pastors and big bucks, puts the temptation towards ego and empire right at the doorway of all leaders in the attractional church model. No wonder so many fall! Ego stinks to God even more than immorality. He resists it! I have a feeling God’s been tearing that one down lately… God grace us all!
4) Make Disciples, not Attenders. A VERY important one: Small churches mobilise a higher percentage of members (And that’s what church is ALL about!). The tendency to not find “a way in” to serving is stronger in big churches. The super talented and keen 20% rise, the mere mortal 80% are tempted to sit and watch, no matter how many calls to “get involved” come from the stage. So eventually the model produces a lazy class of Christian, unacquainted with deep prayer and unfulfilled in evangelism. We will be judged for gathering people to mere music and teaching centres, rather than discipling and mobilising the troops. Gulp!
5) Everyone Matters. Small churches focus on “everyone has” – bigger ones that are event based teach us there’s a priestly class, and an audience. (I’m not against stages – I spend my life on one! But I am sooo aware of the wrong lesson the entire set up can give off). Paul told us, “When you come together, everyone should have…” (1 Co 14:26)
6) Growing Succession Problems. It’s easier to find leaders who can lead groups of up to 100 people. Leaders of thousands are rare. Perhaps it is better to plant 100 churches of 50, than build a mega church of 5000? (Yes, it comes to the same amount of people!) I am pretty sure a higher percentage of those in churches of 50 will be mobilised, known, challenged to fulfilment and heard, by comparison.
7) The Favour is Waning. Behind the scenes, many large church leaders know the attractional model is beginning to fail in many (not all) settings. It’s getting more and more expensive to gather the crowd. But the church has left the building – it’s a new day! New days need new ways.
It’s a super challenging time for leaders of large churches. I’m not saying we should never gather for big events, enjoy great music and worship or expect growth. But when it’s too much of what church becomes, it’s deeply affecting our capacity to create discipleship cultures. (Do big events monthly/occasionally at most perhaps… ?) I’ve run attractional church in many seasons, as I love music and creativity, and I like things done well. But let’s remember, “all things in moderation” – we gotta get this church thing done right!
There’s definitely something in the air from God, stirring us to think about finding ways to grow, but get smaller all at the same time. Perhaps it’s time to grow through multiplication and mobilisation and not so much through mega-church and mega-meetings? It’s time to know and be known. Time to release our next tier leaders to their destinies, instead of using them to build empires.
God give you wisdom as you go!
If you want to go deeper into this theme, try my book THE MULTI-SITE CHURCH ADVENTURE, which tells some of the story of our efforts to reach many, through multiple smaller churches.