I love small churches. I would sooner attend a small church on a Sunday morning than any other church there is. For me there is something special about gathering with a small group of Christians for worship. I always warn people not to use the phrase: “We are just a small church.”I don’t believe that there is ever an insignificant small church.
Having said that, however, I appreciate large churches, even mega-churches with their thousands of attenders. Every size church has its place in God’s Kingdom and I enjoy them all.
In this blog entry I thought that I would balance out all of my entries praising the small church by sharing with you some things that I appreciate about large churches.
There are people who find Christ in a large church
I don’t believe that most large churches are any more effective at evangelism than most small churches are. For the most part, large churches become large by being very good at meeting the desires of people already attending church. They have more talented worship teams. They offer programs for teens and children that small churches can’t offer. They often have more effective preachers. What they don’t do though on a percentage basis is reach more people for Christ.
Having said that, there are people who come to Christ through the ministry of large churches and I will join with the angels in heaven rejoicing over every person who becomes a Christian.
There is a danger in small churches of viewing the large church as the enemy. Many small churches have lost key people to the large church down the road and now they see that large church as the place that steals their people.
Remember that the large church down the road is part of the church universal of which we also are a part. We need to celebrate every good thing that happens there.
The large church often has an influence that small churches don’t have
We are living in a post-Christian culture here in Canada. It is a culture in which churches don’t have the impact that they once had. When I was a child, I remember people, Christians and non-Christians alike, in my small town being upset because the reeve of the town swore in a public setting. Public meetings often began with one of the clergy in town offering a prayer. I approached the fall fair committee about having a Sunday morning church service as part of the fall fair and received unanimous support for the idea.
Those days are gone. The church to a great degree has lost that influence that it used to have. It isn’t so much that people in positions of influence are opposed to church involvement. It is that they don’t see any reason for it.
In a post-Christian culture the large church can still have a voice that small churches simply don’t have. Representing thousands of people they bring a stronger voice to discussions. I am thankful for any impact that the church has today.
The large church impacts the youth that leave home
Babies become children and children become teenagers and teenager grow up and leave home. That is a law of nature that can never be reversed as much as parents might like to do so.
Small churches might like to reverse the process as well. This is especially true of small-town and rural churches. When the children graduate, they have to move on because there is a decided shortage of universities and colleges in small towns. It is never fun to know that those teenagers who are just reaching the point at which they can serve will be attending church some place else in a very short period of time.
I attended one of those large city churches with a thriving college and career group that numbered in the hundreds. It was in a university town so students from all over Canada came to study. I spoke several times to that group and I can remember thinking that that church was benefiting from the investment that small churches had made in their children. I felt that the leaders should be thankful for the gift of these potential leaders.
I don’t feel that way any more. Now I look at those young people and am thankful that there is a large church that cares enough about our young people to offer them a program that will continue the growth process that we began. The young people were never mine to lose. They were just entrusted to me and now they are being entrusted to someone else. I am so thankful that there is a caring community that will pick up the responsibility and help them grow in their next stage of life.
Can large & small churches serve together?
Is there a gulf between small and large churches that can never be breached? Are they so different that any thought of working together is impossible?
They are radically different. David Ray compares them to a Pekingese and a Saint Bernard. They are both dogs but would it be wise to have them both as pets?
I believe that all size churches not only can co-exist but can enrich each other if they just respect each other’s uniqueness. Small churches are not incomplete models of the real thing which could also be large if they just copied the large church. They are an important part of the church of which Christ is the head. Large churches are not the enemy. They too are part of the church of which Christ is the head. If they have the same head, then they must be meant to work together.
To return to where I started, I love the small church but I appreciate the unique role that the large church plays as well.