Since the genesis of the Christian church in the early 1st century, God has blessed the missional efforts of His people. In the last 2000 years, we have seen small, medium, and large congregations emerge as an expression of mutual care and corporate worship. Functionally, the Church has changed very little since these humble beginnings. Sure, technology and culture have helped to evolve discipleship methods but the basic staples of service, spiritual formation, and proclamation have stayed consistent These evolutions are needed, and should stay steady in anything we do as pastors and leaders. I however think that there have been some misunderstandings and false idols that have been constructed within the Church we have come to love.
The apostle Paul spoke of this mentality in a few of his letters to the relatively new Christian church. In his first letter to the Corinthians, for example, not only was he addressing basic doctrinal issues and Christian behavior, but he also touched on the concept of following leaders merely for their charisma. These teachers were great at their presentation, but the content pertaining to the sovereignty and work of Christ was blatantly false. These are things I have been reflecting on lately.
I have been thinking about what Paul would say about the world we are currently in as a Church. My guess is (taking clues from his writings) he wouldn’t concern himself much with the things we do as a Christian leadership culture. We spend a lot of time reading books, and going to conferences in order to learn from men and women who have built empires…and who no longer call themselves servants but “influencers”. I wonder what our beloved apostle would say about the Kingdom validity of a local congregation merely based on attendance and financial status. If Paul walked into a church and saw a bunch of people all carrying coffee in the same hand, wearing the same kind of scarves, with the same skin color, similar socio-economic backgrounds and a facility that is brand new and immaculate…I wonder what his observations would be. Just a thought… Nothing wrong with a new building, but often aesthetics becomes the focus.
There is something happening in our world currently that begs to be mentioned. In a time where churches have to be flexible and sustainable for the long term due to this pandemic, I actually believe smaller churches are best suited for this task. Small churches are nimbler in times of crisis and are set up better to take on the charge to intimately serve their neighbor. Megachurches are wonderful expressions of worship and programs…but I have felt burdened for the mere financial overhead of daily operations that exist. Especially in a context in which they are not having regular physical services for the purpose of safety. Also, I don’t want to be crass in the way that I say this…but there are churches out there who thrive on the addiction to their programs they have created in the community. I’m sure there is a better way to say that (and I will get reamed for it), but I am not sure how else to express the idea.
One of the largest misconceptions of the smaller church has to do with financial resources. The idea is, a small church can’t possibility be a valid expression of the kingdom of God unless money is pouring in and constant enthusiasm is being created. Pastor David Platt said it best when he observed, “The greatest hindrance to the advancement of the gospel may be our attempt to do the work of God apart from the power of God.” In this address he was saying that we have become really good at piling resources around us so that we are no longer in need of God’s intervention. We can even grow our churches through psychology, marketing, and manufactured excitement. Let’s look at Paul once again and his thought pattern evidenced in scripture. In many of his letters, Paul actually makes a plea to other churches to support the churches of lesser means. He even acknowledges the vitality of their work. This is counter-cultural to our Darwinian view of congregational support. So, let’s just agree that all sizes and financial statuses are valid. My purpose in these statements is not to “bash” or condemn larger churches…only to establish a respect for smaller ones.
Right now, we are seeing an amazing reawakening of the small church like never before. Leaders are coming up with new ideas on how to engage and serve their communities. Sure, many of these congregations don’t have the most polished or professional presentations, but why would that matter? I suppose that would only matter if we were trying to attract people to charisma or prowess. This is unbiblical, and we need to melt down that golden calf.
That’s my two cents.
Love you all.