Can the Church ever get too big? Can she spread herself too thin? Can she become more things to more people than her Lord intended? Questions like these need to be asked and they need to be answered. For many churches are drifting into a new definition of themselves, a definition which can involve basic change in their task and structure. Before this has altogether taken place and only rationalization is left, we should ask whether we want it to happen, and if not, what we can do to keep it from happening.

The changing concept of the Church is due in part to a changing concept of the State. The welfare State with its plethora of services to individuals has necessitated wider utilization of private groups. The potential of the State’s bureaucracy is enormous but it is not unlimited. Confronted with a continuing demand for services, the State has hit upon the device of hiring private groups to perform many of these activities. Private groups, including churches, can be engaged to minister to the ill; to care for the aged, orphans, and indigent; to distribute relief; to do research; to educate, to administer foreign aid, and so on. The government pays these groups out of taxes for the social services they perform. It is sometimes argued that the more of these services that can be assigned to churches the better.

Big Government and Big Church

This development in government has been paralleled by a like development in the churches. We may call this the concept of the “Big Church.” Recently an official of a denominational board of hospitals was boasting of the empire he ruled. He martialed statistics of beds, patients, nurses, doctors, technicians with obvious relish. All he needed was a few more of this and a few more of that to ...

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