I want my church to grow.
I want your church to grow.
But more than anything, I want The Church to grow.
I want as many people as possible, all over the world, to know Jesus.
The good news of the gospel can’t be confined within the walls of my church, the distinctives of my denomination, the borders of my country, or the customs of my culture.
And it’s precisely because I want the gospel of Jesus to reach the greatest number of people, that I am an avid supporter, promoter and encourager of healthy small churches.
Big and megachurches are great. And they get almost all the press, both positive and negative. They deserve our prayers and support, not jealousy and ridicule. But, as valuable as they are, large congregations are not where most people receive the bulk of their spiritual nourishment and discipleship. Most of that is happening in millions of small congregations all over the world.
For some insight into this phenomenon, check out Is Bigger Really Better? The Statistics actually Say “No”!, by Neil Cole, based on well-researched stats from Ed Stetzer and Christian Schwarz. Cole’s post includes this stunning sentence. “The stats tell us that ten smaller churches of 100 people will accomplish much more than one church of 1000.” Yes, you read that right. Go ahead and re-read it if you need to. I’ll wait.
If you could choose to do just one thing to support and strengthen the growth of the church around the world, it’s hard to imagine a better investment than multiplying, encouraging and equipping healthy small churches.
Small Churches are the Little Engine that Could
In the business world, massive companies like Google, Facebook and Coca-Cola get all the attention.
But small businesses are what drive the economy.
The same is true for the church. Big and megachurches get almost all the attention, but small churches drive the growth of the global church.
When was the last time you heard that truth stated? Have you ever?
Church leaders and denominational officials often talk about how many small congregations there are. But those stats are almost universally seen as a problem to be fixed, instead of an asset we should support and strengthen.
I support small churches, not because numbers don’t matter, but because they do. I’m not settling for less, I’m striving for greater. More people are led to Jesus, discipled and sent into ministry from small churches than by any other means.
Despite our prejudice towards bigness, church growth does not mean that these healthy, missional small churches will become big churches. Some will. Most won’t. In most of the world, church growth means the planting and nurturing of small churches, not the building of bigger ones.
Given these facts, it’s a mystery why we talk so much about building bigger churches, but we have so little teaching, support and resources dedicated to doing small church well.
As I mention in The Grasshopper Myth, the only reason I wrote a book to support small churches is because I couldn’t find the help I needed anywhere else.
How Have We Missed This?
If healthy small churches are exploding all over the world, leading some of the greatest revivals in history – which they are – why isn’t every church leader in the world celebrating, supporting and promoting more healthy small churches?
Is it because of a western (mostly American) bias for bigness? I think so.
Bigger churches may be the way the American church is growing. (Even that’s debatable, though). But they’re not the primary cause for the growth of the church globally. That’s happening almost exclusively due to the multiplication – in some places, the explosion – of small churches.
If you’re a small church pastor, take heart. You’re not a failure. Quite the opposite.
You and you church are an indispensable asset in the eternally valuable task of reaching the world for Jesus.
And if you’re a denominational official or church leader/influencer, please take the premise of this post seriously.
Small churches may be Christianity’s most overlooked, underutilized asset. And they aren’t going away, they’re multiplying.
If small churches have been reaching the world while we’ve been underusing, under-resourcing and often ignoring them, imagine what they could do with our support.