Is the term “Successful Small Church” an oxymoron?
You know, like
- Jumbo shrimp
- Deafening silence
- Awfully good
- Genuine imitation
- Icy hot
- Open secret
- Living dead
- Clean dirt
- Alone together
Or, more sarcastically,
- Microsoft Works
- Smart bombs
- Educational television
When I first considered that question as a basis for a blog post, I knew what my answer was going to be.
“No! Of course not!”
Then I looked up the definition and … uh oh … everything changed.
Oxymoron: a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory. (emphasis mine)
So, “successful small church” is an oxymoron. Not because “successful” and “small church” are contradictory. But because of those pesky words “appear to be” in the definition.
Objects in Mirror Aren’t As Insignificant As They Appear
“Successful” and “small” are not actually contradictory words. But we’ve created a culture in which they “appear to be” contradictory to many people.
We’ve convinced ourselves that successful equals big. So small must equal failure. Therefore, anytime you have “small” and “successful” in the same phrase – voila! Instant oxymoron.
But one of the goals Jesus came to accomplish was to redefine success.
- The humble will be exalted
- The first will be last
- When I am weak, then I am strong
- The meek will inherit the earth
All oxymorons. All true.
What Is Success?
If we hope to overcome the perception that “successful small church” is an oxymoron, we have to redefine success the way Jesus did. And that starts by answering the question in the title with another question. Namely, “what is a successful church?”
The answer to that question is not found in buildings, budgets or butts in the seats. It’s found in the simple, two-part formula for success laid out by Jesus himself. The Great Commandment and Great Commission.
Are we loving God? Loving each other? Making disciples? Sharing our faith? Any church that’s spending its time doing that instead of obsessing over budgets, building projects, making a name for the pastor, petty infighting and the like, is a successful church. No matter how big or small it is.
More Successful Small Churches, Please
“Successful small church” may be an oxymoron to some. But it’s not a contradiction.
There are millions of successful small churches all over the world. Including the wonderful, dedicated people I’m privileged to pastor. Hopefully your church is one, too. If it isn’t, it can be.
Your church doesn’t need to be bigger to be successful. Or have more money. Or a bigger building – or any building.
Your church just needs to start doing what so many successful churches of all sizes are already doing. The Jesus stuff.
In every corner of the globe, alongside well-known, successful and effective big churches, you’ll find hundreds of thousands of virtually unknown, but successful and effective small churches. People who gather to worship Jesus, care for each other, share the good news of grace and hope, restore broken lives, heal shattered marriages, rebuild crumbling neighborhoods and more.
Your church can be one of them.
Yes, they go together. They’re everywhere.
And we need more of them. A lot more.
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