If you’ve been a part of the Christian culture for any length of time it becomes clear that we are enamored with big churches. There is something that happens when a church hits that threshold of 1000 people that seems magical. It’s almost as if that community is now a real church and can be taken seriously. I’ve read enough material from church planting organizations that give lip service to creating ‘healthy’ communities while inferring that the true goal is rapid numerical growth.
However, I believe that system is coming to a painful but needed end.
The culture in the U.S. is slowly becoming more and more hostile to the Christian faith. While those on the outside claim we are merely crying wolf it seems very clear that the eroding of religious freedom is going to force a change in what the church will look like (and I don’t believe this is limited to the Christian faith). There is nothing wrong with being a part of a large church, nor of astronomical growth, but a change in the DNA of the church does take place when such growth occurs. It can be difficult to be a pastor when the congregation, the elder board, and perhaps even the denomination is pushing for growth without the same zeal for a mature relationship with Christ. And if the culture has no patience for large groups of Christians congregating together? The time for a different strategy is coming quickly.
The success of the church in the future may not be in how quickly it can grow but more in how small it can stay. While we will always put forth effort in evangelizing and converting we will need a process of multiplying when we have hit certain numerical thresholds. We may not have the luxury of thinking in terms of ‘thousands’ but more so in groups of 50 or 100. Church planting of small churches by small churches may be the best option at survival. Simple and sustainable will be the hallmarks of new churches desiring to take root and make an impact in their local neighborhoods.