1. Niche Needs
Many small churches fulfill the needs of a specific group of people. Retirees, recovering addicts, the bohemian downtown coffee shop crowd, and so on. I’m convinced the Niche Church will serve a larger group of people in the next generation or two.
2. God’s Call
Not every pastor is called to put more people in the building week after week, year after year. Many are called to shepherd a smaller group, serving God, their community and the body of Christ in smaller, but still significant ways.
3. Pastoral Gifting
Some pastors, like me, don’t minister well in a church where we don’t know most of the people’s names. We function better on a relational level than a managerial one.
4. Personal Preference
More people are drawn to worship Jesus and serve others in an intimate setting than in a vast crowd. It’s just the way they (we) are.
If that’s not the way you worship and serve best, then find a good, healthy big church. But don’t disparage those who do it in a smaller way.
People who are drawn to worship and serve in small settings deserve great small churches to worship and serve in.
5. The Primary Reality? Small Is Embedded In the Nature of the Church
There are a lot of reasons for so many small churches. Some are due to ill-health. Some – counterintuitively – are because of growth (growing churches planting other churches).
But of all the reasons churches are small, I have come to believe the main reason has to do with the very nature of the gospel itself.
The nature of Church lends itself to smallness.
Worship is both communal and individual. But at its core, it is intimate. We need a community of closeness as much or more than we need an atmosphere of celebration.
Big churches know this. It’s the main reason you’ll often hear megachurch pastors say “we have to grow bigger and smaller at the same time.”
Big churches are good. But small church is normal. And necessary.
Bigness Is an Outlier – Small Is Natural
Big- and megachurches are a gift to the body of Christ. But they have been, and always will be outliers in church life, not the norm. Bigness is the exception, not the rule.
In some cases, bigness happens because we force it. It’s not a natural process. If massive church growth happened as naturally as church growth proponents say it does, then why do we need all the books and seminars telling us how to do it? Don’t normative things happen naturally?
Yes, the church will grow. It’s in the Great Commission, and in the declaration of Jesus that he would build his church.
So let’s pay attention to the way church growth normally and naturally happens, then support it.
We don’t need fewer smaller churches, we need a whole lot more of them.
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