“Jesus wants the church to grow!”
I agree. How can I not? Jesus was the one who said, “I will build my church,” and I’ve found that arguing with him is not a recipe for health or happiness.
“Jesus wants your church to grow!”
Wait just a second.
We often make that second statement as though it’s the same thing as the first. It’s not.
The church growth movement tends to be focused on the growth of individual congregations. Sometimes that’s expanded, usually through a denominational strategy, to include a multiple-church plan, including church planting, but a denominational focus is too narrow also.
What if, when Jesus said, “I will build my church,” what he had in mind wasn’t a world filled with grand cathedrals and megachurches? What if the current breakdown of 90 percent small churches to 10 percent medium, big and megachurches, instead of being a problem to solve, is actually closer to what Jesus intended?
If that’s even a possibility, shouldn’t we look into the idea of taking small churches more seriously?
(Today’s post is an excerpt from The Grasshopper Myth, Chapter 6, “So What’s Wrong with Church Growth?”)
Taking Small Seriously
Maybe getting small churches to become big churches isn’t the answer to the problems that are stifling the growth of the western church in recent decades. After all, in the places where the church is growing the fastest, like in Latin America and Africa, new churches are popping up all over the place. Sure, they have megachurches too, but megachurches aren’t what’s fueling some of the greatest revivals the world has ever seen. It’s mostly happening in new small churches.
Maybe what Jesus had in mind was a world littered with churches of all sizes, shapes and styles to meet needs of all sizes, shapes and styles.
When my vision is limited to growing my church, instead of participating in what Jesus is doing to build his church, there’s a tendency to invest our precious resources, both human and material, in the wrong places. If my church is supposed to be one of the small, wiry, guerrilla-style outposts, I’m not being a good steward of its resources when I pump my time, energy and money into trying to be a megachurch.
So that begs the question – if small churches can be so great, why does it seem like there are so many small churches, but so few great small churches?