Monday, April 30, 2012

Big Church vs. Small Church--what does the Bible say?

Currently, our church is small in number. Most of the house churches I know applaud us for being small. Smaller church is better church, they say.

But I can't support that. The Bible doesn't say that smaller churches are better and I'm not willing to take a stand on something the Bible doesn't take a position on (see my recent POST for more than that). So we moved from our home, where we started meeting, and now rent a space in a strip mall. We are also praying for God to bring more people to join our church. (If you're in the southwest Atlanta metro area, we'd love to have you stop by on a Sunday afternoon!)

Before you start judging house churches and feeling good about how large your church is, I should say that pursuing becoming bigger isn't necessarily biblical, either. I can't count the books and workshops and consultants--the tremendous amount of money and effort spent--focused totally on how to make your church as big as possible.

Who says bigger is better? Not the Bible.

There's way too much judging in the church about size--both big looking down on small and vice versa.

Small churches have some advantages over big churches, like easier relationship building and the ability to tailor services to specific member needs. But big churches have some advantages over small churches, too. There are a lot more resources (money, people, etc.) to spread around so each ministry can be more robust and further reaching.

However, both small and large churches can drop the ball. Just because thousands (or thirty) come on Sunday doesn't mean you're doing a good job with them. Last night, my wife and I just went to Les Miserables, the musical (amazing show!) in downtown Atlanta. The Fox Theater in Atlanta was packed--a sold out show. But while that story is laced with gospel-esque themes, it was pure entertainment and would have made for a poor church service.  Entertainment draws huge crowds, but fails to grows deep disciples.

Assuming that larger churches are more spiritually effective than smaller churches--that they're doing something better purely because more people are coming--is naïve at best. Assuming that smaller churches are deeper is equally wrong.

I think the number of attendees at the meeting is far less important than what happens during that meeting. The Bible says nothing about the size God prefers, but plenty about how to run mature spiritual gatherings. Small churches and large churches both can offer profound or poor services. So no matter your size, the real question is: Are you being a good steward of the people you do have coming? Are you running great services that really develop your members?


  1. Our small church will soon be in the midst of discord. At this point the "powers that be" the DS and others in authority say our pastor is ineffective and should be removed. This is a man who is a wonderful Christian, Pastor, Sunday School teacher, who leads us in trying to grow both our faith and our little church. It appears the real motive of the DS and his cronies is to close our small church. We don't understand the reason for this as we are self supporting, pay our apportionments, give to mission work, try to grow our church and most importantly love God and follow the path He has us follow. Our fault? Being a small church in a district that has leaders who seem to be unconcerned about the small churches. We just pray that God will touch those making decisions and will also give us the grace to face what is ahead, good or bad.

    1. I'm so sorry to hear of your situation. That's tough. It sounds like there's a crucial difference in how the DS and the other authorities are defining "effective" and how you and the other church members are. If they are using numerical growth/membership size as their primary measure of success, then I'd challenge them to think about whether closing this church actually increases or decreases the overall numbers. While more people serving God is better than less, I'd also challenge them to think more deeply about how to measure the health and impact of a church than numbers alone. Praying for you!