But church growth is more than numbers. Despite what the 200 Barrier implies, many churches contribute to the growth of the church without seeing the corresponding numerical growth in their congregation.
We need to end our obsession with The 200 Barrier because it has damaged a lot of good people.
- It implies that smaller churches are less valuable than bigger churches
- It belittles the valuable ministry of small churches and their pastors
- It causes unhealthy churches to devote their limited resources to getting bigger instead of getting healthier
- It encourages pridefulness in pastors whose churches are bigger than 200
- It promotes a false view of success in ministry
- It reinforces The Grasshopper Myth
But mostly, the term 200 Barrier needs to be retired because of one simple truth:
The 200 Barrier doesn't exist! It has no biblical basis! We made it up! 200 is not a barrier. It's just a number.
The fact that churches above 200 require a different administrative approach doesn't make 200 a barrier. It doesn't make churches above 200 better. And if over 200 isn't better, then moving from under 200 to over 200 isn't breaking through a barrier, it's just getting bigger.
Why the Grasshopper Barrier Needs to Be Broken
The Grasshopper Barrier, on the other hand, is very real - whatever we choose to call it. Because it does the same damage to churches and their leaders today that it did to the Hebrews on the other side of the Jordan.
- It keeps small churches and their leaders stuck in a cycle of frustration, fear and self-despising
- It paralyzes more ministers and churches than it inspires
- It causes many good people in smaller ministries to quit too soon
- It encourages us to judge ourselves by unbiblical standards
- It is self-reliant, not God-dependent
- It induces guilt and shame when churches don't get bigger
- It encourages pride when churches do get bigger
- It's magnifies our fear, not our faith
Being small is not a problem until we think it is.
And nothing makes us think small is a problem more than seeing a grasshopper in our mirror.
It's possible for a church to break through the 200 Barrier without becoming healthier. But breaking through the Grasshopper Barrier is an essential ingredient to the health of any church – or any person.