It’s not about big or small. It’s about big and small. The entire church is better with all of us than without any of us.
Celebrating small churches is great. Doing it by putting down our brothers and sisters who attend, worship, serve and lead in larger churches?
That’s just wrong.
But it keeps happening.
Well-meaning pastors or church-goers keep responding on my social media timeline, in their own blog post, with a personal email, or face-to-face at a conference with “Thanks for celebrating small churches. Small churches are the best.”
To the first sentence, I say a hearty “thank you.”
To the second sentence I say a firm “no.” Just… no.
Yes, I love small churches. And I appreciate your enthusiasm. But, can we please stop this silly comparison game? No one wins at it.
Sometimes we need to highlight the differences between church sizes in order to lead them properly.
“Big churches do something this way, while small churches do it this way” needs to be a regular part of our leadership learning and dialog.
But highlighting those differences should never be done in an ‘Us vs Them’ manner.
We need to learn how to contrast without criticism.
People in almost every other field of endeavor (like cooks, contractors, publishers and scientists) know this. They regularly compare, contrast and utilize different ingredients, tools, fonts and methods to become better at what they do. Leaders within the body of Christ need to have a similar approach to our extra-biblical differences.
“I like the idea of small churches. But if they’re so great, why do I see so many more unhealthy small churches than unhealthy big churches?”
A small church pastor asked me that question recently. Not from cynicism or unkindness. It was out of genuine concern for a reality he saw.
To be honest, it’s a reality we all see. The vast majority of unhealthy churches are small. That’s unarguably true. What’s not true is his unspoken concern that most small churches are unhealthy.
The truth is that while the vast majority of unhealthy churches are small, the vast majority of small churches are not unhealthy.
Big churches serve many great roles in the body of Christ. And the church growth movement that spawned many of them has been a great blessing to me and so many others in ministry.
But numerical growth, while great, does not come without challenges.
In my last post, 5 Mistakes More Likely To Be Made By Small Churches Than Big Churches, I wrote about some of the challenges that small congregations need to be aware of.
In this post, we’ll look at the other side of the numerical bell curve to see what potential missteps big churches need to be aware of falling into.
If this list feels familiar, it should. Each point is a one-for-one parallel to my small church list.
I’m a fan of Small Churches. But I like big churches, too.
In fact, I really like them. There’s something very inspiring about hundreds, even thousands of people gathering to lift up their voices and hands in praise to Jesus and to receive discipleship through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.
Every size of church has something to add to this amazing organism we know as the body of Christ.
But, as I pointed out in a previous post, 5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Big Church, not everyone who goes to a big church, goes for the right reasons. (Also, as I pointed out in 5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Small Church, people don’t always go to a Small Church for the right reasons either.)
But there are some great reasons to go to a big church. Here are just five of them.
1. Because It Helps Me Know I Belong to Something Much Bigger than Me
Depending on where you live, it’s possible to go through an entire week of school or work and not meet one other person who shares your faith.
For many people, going to a big church allows them to see that they not alone in their faith. The size of the crowd helps encourage them in the realization that they serve a God who is much bigger than them, and they are part of a spiritual family that is vast and wonderful.
2. Because the Multiple Service Times Fit My Atypical Schedule
I love big churches.
Any time massive numbers of people get together to worship Jesus, that’s a great thing.
But every church of every size 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 take another look at your motivations.
Carey Nieuwhof is a name that is rising fast in the Christian blogosphere.
Seven years ago, Carey founded the fast-growing, multi-site Connexus Church (about 1,500 people) in the small city of Barrie, Ontario, Canada (population 128,000).
His primary blogging topic? Church growth.
I, on the other hand, have been pastoring Cornerstone Christian Fellowship (about 200 people) for 22 years in Orange County, California (population 3.1 million).
My primary blogging topic? Small Churches.
We were bound to butt heads, right?
If all you knew about us were the mini-bios I just gave you, it would be obvious where that butting of heads would take place. He should see me as a sad underachiever who needed his condescending help, while I would be looking at him with jealousy and/or ridicule for putting numbers first.
Big churches have a reputation for being overly programmed and impersonal. Small Churches have a reputation for being backwards and lazy. I’ve always fought against those characterizations, believing them to be unfair caricatures. But a recent conversation made me realize that those stereotypes have their foundations in some sad realities. I was talking with a …