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Is Bigger Necessarily Better? July 7, 2006

Posted by Kevin in Uncategorized.
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I don’t have all of my thoughts together on this. But, I am questioning in my own mind the drive of many mainline denominations toward the mega-church model. I belong to a denomination that places a rather significant emphasis on the “K-Church”. K Churches are churches that average more than 1000 in regular worship attendance. I have a friend that is starting a new church that challenges many of the models of church planting. That activity along with some other personal experiences have me wondering about some things.

As I said at the beginning, I don’t have all my thoughts together on this one. Rather I have more questions than I have answers at this point. I’ll get to those in a moment. But first, I have a few observations.

I grew up in a series of churches that rarely exceeded 200 in attendance on any given Sunday. Most of the churches that I have been fortunate enough to worship in have been under 100 in regular attendance. In fact, my “favorite” church up to this point was right at 200 in regular attendance. It was my favorite for many reasons. I served on my first church board at that church. We went through a building program, a pastoral search and had many other real and exciting experiences in that church. We were part of a great group of young couples and we were heavily integrated into the life of the church through various avenues of involvement. We knew everybody. Everybody knew us.

By contrast, up until recently, we were worshipping in one of the largest churches in the metropolitan Houston area. A church with the stated goal of getting larger through acquisition of smaller churches, through satellite churches operating in theaters, and through traditional growth and influx. Their motto is “one church in three locations.” I know the pastor by name only. I think I know his wife’s name. I don’t know his children’s names. He doesn’t know me. He wouldn’t even know I was a member if we ran into each other in the grocery store. If I was to get sick, or be in the hospital, or have a family crisis I wouldn’t have a clue who to call. The Bible study class that we attended right before we left had about 110 people who attended regularly.

So, here are some questions that are in my head:

  1. Is bigger necessarily better?
  2. What is the ideal size church?
  3. What is the value of a large church that cannot be found in a smaller church?
  4. How do you achieve a sense of “family” in a church of 6000?
  5. Is “one church in three locations” a Biblical model?
  6. Is the small church passé?
  7. Are we doing a disservice to many pastors who work hard and labor long in churches that may never be mega churches when we glorify these mega-church pastors?
  8. Do you need a certain number of folks to make a “critical mass” before you can impact your community?
  9. Is the community church a dieing breed as more folks flock to the mega-church?
  10. Who is driving this? Is it the denomination’s leaders? Is it the pastors of these big churches? Is it the Church Boards and/or Deacons?

Again, I know there will be some strong opinions on this. But, let me ask you to look at this on a very practical level. For those of you who attend a mega church, who in your church would you call if you found out today that you were facing a crisis like cancer or the loss of a loved one? If that is too depressing to answer, let me put a positive spin on it. If you or your daughter was planning a wedding, would she want the pastor to officiate and hold it in the mega church, or would she prefer a more intimate setting?

I don’t think there are inherently right or wrong issues here. But, I know in my heart that I do not feel as connected to the church as I have in years past. And that is a desire of my heart. To be connected. To be connected to the Lord Jesus Christ. And to be connected to his body, the church.

I would gladly give up the big projection screens, the lighting effects, the professional musicians and the slickly produced worship services for a family altar time on Sunday morning and an offertory by a young person just learning to play the piano. But maybe that is just me.

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Comments»

1. Anonymous - July 7, 2006

Just in reading through that post, many things run across my mind. I think I will think on that one a bit, that is a lot to consider. One question I would add though, is just because a church is large and growing, does that mean they are growing in Spirit or finances or both?

2. Inheritor of Heaven - July 10, 2006

The church I attend has grown from about 300 in worship on a Sunday to about 1000 spread over 3 services. We have since added a multipurpose room (gym sized) and a much larger worship space than what we had previously. When we joined 16 years ago it seemed like a very small congregation where (once we became involved) we knew nearly everyone. Now (because we are still very involved) we know quite a large number though not all. There are a couple of key aspects to a larger church (I would not consider us a mega-church) in terms of staying connected. We have many opportunities for small groups and ministries. The worship team for example (who are not professionals but volunteers) minister to one another on a regular basis. When my wife went in to the hospital with her heart attack, yes, the pastor came down there but the greatest long term ministry came through people we knew from our “care group” (our small group) and our prayer ministry team. These relationships were made because we chose to be involved in the church and in various aspects of ministry that the laity are supposed to do as part of being the Body of Christ. Also, we called them and told them about our situation and need. I know of many who under similar situations do not call or do not have any built up relationships in the church and feel hurt when no one visits. How can someone visit if they don’t know you are sick? Who will visit if you have no caring relationships in the church?

Sometimes I wonder if people go to a larger church to hide, so they will not be called upon to do the work that is needed to be done. Do some go to a smaller church because the pastor will do everything and they won’t have to? Some go to a larger church to network their personal and professional relationships. Some go to a smaller church because it feels more like a family. Certainly in a mega-church small groups would have to be necessary to retain any sense of family. A question might be, Why do we go to church at all? I believe we are called to be a community. We are called to be Jesus to each other and to the world “outside” the walls of the church building. My family is not just through flesh and blood but it is truly through the shared blood of Jesus who called us into his body, who calls us brothers and sisters.

I believe our church has grown because the Lord has caused it to. Because the Holy Spirit is allowed to do what he does best, draw people to Jesus. We are considering the satellite model because we don’t want to be a mega-church at one huge campus. We do want to retain whatever the Lord is blessing in terms of expanding the kingdom through us.

I think the Lord will use whatever model we choose as long as we are about his kingdom expansion and the preaching of the good news of Jesus. I see kingdom expansion as making disciples not making conversions. It is the lived out relationship with Christ and with each other that making disciples is about. It is about growth. Growing to be more like Jesus.

Sorry, kinda got a bit rambly there. Too big a topic for this bitty comment space. 🙂

3. KJKEB - July 10, 2006

Inheritor,

You go ahead and ramble! Your thoughts and ramblings are welcome here.

Your comments about involvement, hiding, and being Jesus outside the walls are great points. I, too, need to reflect a little more on this.

~Kevin

4. shaeman - July 11, 2006

Small is the new big. The same culture that brought us Mega-Churches also gave us shopping malls and there is a significant trend towards getting away from those things. I am encouraged by it, personally.

5. KJKEB - July 11, 2006

Shae,

I think I’m with you on this. in fact, I would rather pay a few bucks more and go to the local hardware store than to the big Wal-Mart down the street.

6. Maryellen - July 20, 2006

I do think that some people go to mega churches because they can hide, get lost in the crowd. It is hard to “sneak in” to a church service where there are less than 100 people. I opt for the smaller church where you can get to know people, form relationships, be family. But sometimes they become closed in upon themselves.
The last church my husband pastored had an average attendance of 24 and met in our living room. We worked hard to ensure our members were aware of being a part of a much bigger Church – the body of Christ. We prayed for other churches and pastors in the community every Sunday. We volunteered with the Salvation Army, a shelter for the homeless, nursing home etc. We participated in a community based Passion Play and we often visited other churches when they had special speakers or services. After 3 years however, we realized that our “members” had children and youth that really needed to be part of larger community where everyone wasn’t brother, sister or cousin…so we helped them find other, larger churches and went on a Sabatical. Feels like soon the Lord will give us the green light to go back into ministry…but we don’t think it will be in any kind of “traditional” church, Mega or Micro. I think the LORD, the Holy Spirit can move through any church model, and also that the enemy can get in and pervert/deceive any model as well.

7. Seeker - July 26, 2006

In my humble opinion, even the smaller churches with more than one service have lost a sense of being a “body” or family. It goes without saying that mega-churches cannot have a family “feel”. Just my opinion.

8. Brannon Hancock - August 9, 2006

Interesting to stumble upon your blog, this post in particular, espeically after I had just written and posted this at a new blog (started by some friends of mind, and to which I am a contributor) that you might also find interesting: Nazarene Roundtable.

I have also started up Sanctifying Worship: Nazarenes For Liturgical Renewal, which I also invite you to check out. Nazarene bloggers unite!
in peace,
Brannon


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