5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Big Church

red lightI love big churches.

Any time massive numbers of people get together to worship Jesus, that’s a great thing.

But every size of church has its advantages and its challenges.

So there are both good and bad reasons to attend big churches just like there are good and bad reasons to attend Small Churches.

Today, I’m continuing my four-part series looking at those reasons.

If this post is the first one of the series you’re reading, please understand that it is not a criticism of big churches. It’s a challenge to people who choose to attend big churches for the wrong reasons.

To see the other side of this, check out my previous post, 5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Small Church and come back later for my upcoming post, 5 Good Reasons To Go To a Big Church.

Even if your church is great, it matters that we attend for the right reasons. So if you’re attending a big church for any of the following reasons, you don’t need to stop attending a big church. But you may want to assess and adjust your motivations.

 

1. Because I Want to Be an Anonymous Audience Member

Big churches can be very easy to go to – even as a first-time guest. Whenever someone walks into a room of 1,000 people or more, we know how to behave. Like an audience.

And that’s fine. In fact it’s more than fine. Whenever 1,000 or more people get together to worship and learn about Jesus, that’s fantastic!

But the downside is that it’s easy to stay passive and anonymous in a big church if you want to. 

No, anonymity and passivity is not exclusive to big churches. Small Churches have our share, too. But it’s harder to be anonymous in a Small Church.

If you’re going to a big church because it’s drawing you forward in your worship, discipleship and more, that’s great! Millions of people experience that in big churches.

But there’s a segment of Christians who think sitting in church once a week (or twice a year) will provide all the spiritual nourishment we need – and that it will make God happy as he checks our name “present” in some non-existent heavenly attendance book.

As I wrote in “Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy the Service” May Be Killing Your Church, there’s also a segment of ministers who are willing to encourage that passive mindset. In all sizes of churches.

If you’re attending a big church because it’s easier to stay an anonymous, passive audience member, you’re doing a disservice to yourself, God and that church.

We all need to get and stay active in the life of a church body – whatever size it is.

 

2. Because I Want to Be a Religion Consumer

There are religion consumers in all sizes of churches, just as there are passive audience members.

But it’s easier to be a consumer in a big church. After all, they have a lot more to consume.

Big churches offer a great product. That’s one reason they got big, after all. Because a lot of people like what they have to offer.

But the downside of having a big church with great programs is that you’re likely to attract a higher percentage of those consumer-oriented religion shoppers.

Sure, a good church has a lot to offer people – spiritually, emotionally, financially and more. But the church does not exist to serve you. Or me.

The church exists to be a gathering of disciples who worship Jesus and serve together. And to point others towards becoming worshipers and disciples, too.

 

3. Because I Think Small Churches are Bad

This is the first of two flipsides to points from my previous post, 5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Small Church. This is the flipside of point #2: Because I Think Big Churches Are Bad.

Almost no one says the actual words, “I think small churches are bad”. But it’s often implied in the way we talk about the so-called failures and inadequacies of a smaller church simply for being small.

Being small doesn’t mean the church is unhealthy. Yes, all healthy things grow, but roses and redwoods grow in different ways.

If a bigger church works better for you than a small one does, that’s great. But don’t make the mistake of thinking a healthy rose isn’t a good church just because it’s not redwood-sized.

 

4. Because It’s the Cool Church

Small Churches are seldom cool. But cool is overrated.

As I wrote in The Grasshopper Myth:

I’d rather spend my time stuck in an elevator with geeks who know they’re geeks than in the world’s grandest, most luxurious venue surrounded by beautiful people trying to “out-cool” each other.

It’s one of the reasons I, and many others, like Small Churches. Small Churches are seldom smooth, corporate, institutional or cool. That may be one of the coolest things about them.

The Grasshopper Myth: Chapter 11 – A New Way to Define Success

 

People who go to any church for the cool factor will leave just as quickly when another, cooler church comes along. And there’s always another, cooler church coming along.

 

TGM box sale 250c5. Because the Worship (In Other Words, the Music) Is Better

Here’s another flipside. This time to point #4 of 5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Small Church: Because They Sing the Songs I Like.

Let’s face it. The quality of musicianship in bigger churches is almost always going to be better than in Small Churches. (I’m grateful to say my church has become an exception to that rule for the last several years. A big shout-out to Ami Garcia and our team!)

But high-end musicianship doesn’t necessarily mean that the worship is deeper.

I appreciate how we’ve changed our language in the past couple of decades from using terms like Music Minister and Music Departments to terms like Worship Leader and Worship Teams. It’s an important acknowledgement of their true purpose.

But, along with that language change, some people have started to equate worship almost exclusively with music – and musicianship.

“Good Worship” has become synonymous with high-end musicianship for many people. But, since great musicians are always a small percentage of any population, this trend has had the unintended consequence of making Small Churches feel like their worship is inadequate. And sometimes it turns non-musicians into passive audience members instead of being active worshipers.

I like quality music. In fact, I think it’s important. Every time we pick up an instrument or raise our voices in praise to Jesus, it needs to be done with all the excellence we can give it.

But the quality of musicianship has nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with the depth of the worship. There is great worship happening in churches of all sizes – and all levels of musical quality.

If worship matters to you, don’t settle for finding a church with great musicianship. Become a great worshiper in whatever church you go to.

 


Check out the other posts in this series:


So what do you think? What are some other bad reasons to go to a big church?

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(Red Light photo from Kenny Louie • Flickr • Creative Commons)

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8 thoughts on “5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Big Church”

  1. Gary W. Davis

    Awwwww man, but I like “cool”. Just kidding. I like the list, good list and has sound things in it. I would add something though to number 5.

    Better is a subjective word, as well as quality. I am a drummer, and music is very very important to me, so maybe this is just my POV…but proficiency matters.

    Proficiency is more objective and I believe that most people who say that the worship (music) is better, are simply saying that the music is proficiently performed…yes, performed…and that’s not a bad word, it just is what it is.

    Right or wrong, as long as we do church in the traditional sense (yes, if you have a big light show and a band no matter how cutting edge the “worship” is It is still “traditional” because it operates of the same audience/stage paradigm) we have to content with the fact that the performance matters. It matters because if we want to get people involved, the performance has to:
    Be of such a nature that people can actually follow….
    Get out of the way so that they can follow…(I call this the pocket, I can explain if you want)

    Does that make sense? I mean the performance has to go off in such a way that people aren’t distracted by the music, and the worst way to distract someone is when you play bad. It sticks out, it becomes the center of attention, and people cannot follow behind music that isn’t proficiently performed.

    So if you are going to do it, do it right. Small Church, big Church, medium size, GINORMOUS SIZE…makes no difference. Do it right. Not from a style standpoint, but from a proficiency stand point.

    Now, we can’t go around the congregation telling people they can’t sing because they sound like a cat in a leaf grater. Proficiency relates to how we lead…how we give that space to people. We need to commit to doing it in a non-distracting way.

    Will we ever be able to get rid of the “Edith Bunkers” singing in our congregations, those whose voices and mannerisms in the congregational part of worship (ie. the audience)? No, nor should we because we still have to live in grace….

    But….

    If I hear one more person on the keyboards who thinks they are Beethoven, when they are really no more proficient at chopsticks than I was my first time in the Mongolian Barbecue…I think I’m gonna mutiny.

    1. I fully agree, Gary. And proficiency is a great word for it. That’s what we tell our worship team – our job is to get out of the way and let Jesus be seen. Poor musical proficiency can distract, so we need to practice, practice, practice!

      We have a ministry we call Worship Workshop where we train people (mostly young, but not all) how to play and/or sing to lead in worship. Once or twice a year, the Worship Workshop team leads us in worship on a Sunday morning. But we don’t turn them loose until they’re proficient at enough songs to form a full worship set and do it well. Why? For their sake as well as ours.

      Thanks for the addition to the conversation, Gary.

  2. Gary W. Davis

    Let me add one thing to this. Proficiency has nothing to do with magnitude, that is to say: If you can do worship with one awesome guitar slinger, but you lack in other areas…stick with the guitar slinger until you can get it together.

    One of the most moving experiences I have ever had in church, singing out to God, crying my eyes out and just feeling the grace of my unworthiness come over me….was in a church that had nothing but voices. Not out of choice, or doctrinal belief, but out of necessity. That was all they had that they could do.
    They had a piano…no player good enough
    Organ…same story

    Funny thing is that the pastor played guitar, and I thought quite well…but the elders thought he wasn’t quite ready yet and it was awesome.

    1. I will see if I can recall what I wrote…

      I go to a small church. In fact I more than go to one, I support one.

      But I also like going to my son’s and daughter’s big church. Which may not be big by your standards as it is only a few hundred. My church is under 30 (not in age, in numbers)

      In the small church, I feel I can BE more “me”…

      In the big church, I feel I can FEEL more “me”….

      One is expressive, and one is receptive.

      In the small church I serve. I have a role to play.
      I am probably more outgoing in the small church as I know everyone, am comfortable, know what I am there to do, know the format etc, etc.

      In the big church, I can be surprised. I can have things happen that I wasn’t involved in organising. I can be a consumer.

      I think I sometimes need both of these experiences.
      Sometimes I feel closer to God in the big church because there are no expectations on me, there is no role to play.

      In the small church I can also feel close to God, because I have people I know around me who share my weaknesses, and know my struggles. Grass-roots, real.

      Sometimes I feel I can “hide” in a big church, for sure. But I also feel that sometimes, that sensation (individual isolation in a huge space filled with people) is something that can help me connect with God? I am not super-aware of all those people around me, and the atmosphere can help me let go of my responsibilities. Not being bound by responsibility, I can be freer to listen, to think during the service and worship time.

      You see, there are times when I need the connectiveness, the comfort, the familiarity of the small, and other times when I need the space to check-out of serving, so that I can let go of some burdens.

      From a physical perspective, the music of my small church cannot match that of the bigger church, nor can the atmosphere. I am a musician. I am a worship leader. I notice the difference. (also a graphic designer). That aspect frustrates me in the small church, which is why I gravitate to bigger churches for musicianship and, even, showmanship.

      In our small church this week we sang one song acappella…. and sang it resoundingly. Our tech had failed (my fault…). I swear, everyone sang with their hearts. It might not have been musically excellent, but it was heartfelt.

      Choices…. I love both sizes of church, in different ways.

      1. Lia, I’m sorry you lost your original comment, but I’m very glad you re-wrote it. I completely agree that churches of all sizes have something to offer, and I’m glad that you’re able to get the best of both worlds. Especially for the hard workers in Small Churches, the big church neighbor can provide a much-needed break to relax and experience worship instead of it always being a working experience. There are people in my church that do the same thing.

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