At its inception, the church was a Mega-church (Acts 2). Granted, as it was being planted it started small (the twelve), but it grew (the 70) until it reached a solid core (120). Bathed in prayer and empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter preached and the Church of Jerusalem grew to 3,000 plus in membership. Over time, the size of the church continued to grow as it followed Jesus’ commands.
As many of you know, Melodee and I are currently in between ministries and seeking God’s next step for our lives. As we look for and listen to various opportunities, we have detected some areas that resurface in our investigations. Each area seems to determine the size of the church we investigate.
• The issue of theology – “Fortress Mentality” or “Great Commission” oriented: How a church views God’s Word impacts a whole gamut of attitudes and actions. Theology that sees the church losing the battle in the grand scheme will regress and seek to escape from the world. On the other hand, a church that sees a victorious Christ and a mandate to conquer the world will forge their mission into every area of their world.
• The issue of methodology – regressive or progressive: Theology influences and often breeds methodology. When the church fears the coming invasion of evil its methods are survival in nature. If a church believes the power of the invincible Christ, their methods are heroic at least!
• The issue of focus – ingrown vs. outwardly focused: Closely related to the issue of methodology is the issue of focus. As the years pass by, “Fortress Mentality” theological and regressive methodological issues take their toll. No longer – if they ever did – does the ingrown church look to reach the lost no matter the cost. However, if our theology reverberates with the God of love and the call of his heart from the beginning: “Adam, where are you?” the church will do all it can to reach the lost.
• The issue of change – entrenched or willing: Key to church size is the issue of change. While the Gospel never changes, culture and receptivity issues are always in flux. Since the world around us is changing every 18 months or so, being willing to reach out to those without Christ using innovation in a relational manner is critical to growth in the local church.
• The issue of demographics – sparsely vs. densely populated: A church can only grow as large as the population of their surrounding community. Rural churches may remain small because of this limitation. However, in a larger city or metroplex, a small church indicates another issue.
• The issue of preferences – my likes vs. my sacrifices: Often, at the core of small churches, is the issue of preferences. Usually, a powerful group holds on to the reigns of the church – wreaking unholy havoc and throwing temper tantrums when anyone desires to change something not to their liking. The obvious result of such an approach is division, strife and shrinkage. Growing churches, on the other hand are willing to reinvent themselves and put the needs of the community before their own; thus, growth happens.
• The issue of generosity – misers or generous: Sometimes church growth is directly tied to the generosity of its membership. The mission of Jesus is only accomplished when a significant number of God’s people reject the affluent lure of our culture and sacrifice their time, talents and treasures so that their church has the resources to accomplish the mission of Jesus.
While this list is not exhaustive, it is suggestive. It is quite possible that while you were reading this ideas and experiences came to your mind. Would you like to add to this list or share your experience? Please feel free to comment …
I just got back from the Global Leadership Summit at Willow Creek in Chicago and heard a great reality from Andy Stanley. He brought up the point that sometimes as leaders we have to realize when we manage a tension as opposed to trying to solve that tension. For example when churches, decide whether they should focus solely on reaching out to unbelievers or just focus on maturing who they have. The reality is both are extremely important. We are called both to share our faith but also to mature in our walk. When we realize in many areas it isnt one or the other it allows us to suddenly give proper recognition to both ideas.
Chad, this is an excellent true – tension is a continuous part of the ministry. Balance on the purposes is essential. These are all part of the great mission of God on planet earth.
When polar opposite values are in tension, this is where the leader needs to lead.
Thanks for sharing! Your voice is so appreciated.