The Astonishing Power of Small Churches: How Did We Miss This?

power buttonHow can one billion people be doing something, and the world not stand up and take notice?

More specifically, how can one billion people be doing something within a very narrowly defined niche, and the leaders in that niche not value it?

Imagine if there were one billion people who preferred adding a tablespoon of cream to their Coca-Cola every day. Would Coke’s board of directors launch a campaign to convince them they were drinking Coca-Cola the wrong way? Or would they scramble as fast as possible to mix, package and market “Creamy Coke”?

But that’s what has happened in the church world.

Over one billion people choose to worship Jesus in Small Churches. Yet virtually every book on how to do church implies that this is a problem to be fixed, rather than an opportunity to take advantage of. We’re trying to tell one billion people they’re doing it wrong.

Numbers don’t make something right (oh, the irony). So if worshiping God in a Small Church was selfish, ineffective or theologically flawed, we’d be correct in telling them they’re doing it wrong. But they’re not wrong.

As I say in The Grasshopper Myth, “Wanting to worship and serve God in a Small Church is not a theological error or a personality deficit. It’s time we stopped treating it as though it was.”

How have we missed this?

I believe there are several reasons why we haven’t seen what God is doing around the world in Small Churches. Here are just a few of them.


We Didn’t Do It

The megachurch movement came about through careful and prayerful study, planning, hard work, assessment and follow-through. There are innumerable books, seminars, conferences and classes on megachurch principles.

But Small Churches just keep chugging along without conferences, classes or seminars – and with very few books or websites on how to do it. Why the difference between the two?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the stubborn, historical persistence of Small Churches is something God has done without our noticing it, and in spite of the fact that many of us have fought against it.

Jesus is building his church. And he’s using all sizes and styles to do it.

He didn’t ask for our plans to start it, he doesn’t need our permission to continue it, and he won’t require the approval of a denominational committee to complete it.

God doesn’t need to get in line with what we’re doing, we need to get in line with what he’s doing.

When we don’t plan it, manage it or tie a neat bow on the end of it, most of us don’t notice it. We notice when another church is big, and we whine when our church is small. It’s time to pay attention to what God is doing in his church – and to discover our part in it.


We’ve Mis-Defined Church

We need to define church the way Jesus did. After all, it’s his church, so his definition is the only one that matters.

Here’s what Jesus said.

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. – Matthew 18:20

Two or three. We have to restore that understanding of what church is.

Too often we’ve defined the church as a building. Even if we know better theologically, that’s what we do in practice.

When the church is too closely linked to the building, church growth means more people in the building. Or buying more land to build bigger buildings.

But when we really get the idea that a church can be 2 or 3, we can see that church growth includes an explosion of groups of 2-3, 20-30 or 200-300. And yes, 2,000-3,000 and 20,000-30,000.

Jesus was fine with 2 or 3. We need to stop belittling churches with 10 to 100 times that many people.


Big Crowds Stroke Our Ego

A couple times in my life I’ve spoken to a crowd of over 1,000 people.

It’s quite a buzz.

I can’t imagine the charge people get out of standing in front of tens of thousands of people who came specifically to hear what they have to say on a regular basis.

I’m not saying that every megachurch pastor is an egotist. The truth is, I know some Small Church pastors whose egos could be a float in the Macy’s parade.

But, let’s not pretend that crowds don’t have a tendency to stroke our ego.

This is one of the reasons I have great admiration for megachurch pastors who are able to keep a humble spirit. Not all of them are able to handle it. I don’t know if I could.

Big things get noticed. Small things get missed. And we all want to be noticed, don’t we?

Today’s post is Part 4 of a multi-part series this week on The Astonishing Power of Small Churches.

So what do you think? Do you know of any other reasons why we’ve missed what God is doing through Small Churches?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

(Power Button photo by Roman Soto • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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2 thoughts on “The Astonishing Power of Small Churches: How Did We Miss This?”

  1. One of the biggest “plusses” in small churches is the idea of family. In our church of 30 – that’s an easy thing to feel and be blessed by. For a long time we tried to “mimic” bigger churches (100 for us is a bigger church – lol) in having compartmentalized ministries. We’d have a Kids Church of 6, a youth group of 3, a Seniors ministry of 5, a singles ministry of 4…you get the idea. And it just wasnt’ working. Saul’s armor wasn’t fitting on our David.
    So then we started focusing on FAMILY ministries…having FAMILY events etc…and while we haven’t boomed in numbers…we have been blessed by our endeavors…and the release of STRESS…well, it’s well worth it.

  2. A Small Church trying to mimic a big church is something almost everyone tries at some point, but it never works. We lose what makes Small Churches work without gaining what big churches have. It sounds like you and your church have found a “sweet spot”, Cindy.

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