What makes a successful church? Today it’s all about the numbers. Attendance, or rate of attendance growth–that’s the measurement of success. Or so you’d assume.
But is the crowd-based model of church the hope of the future? Will the One-Big-Size-Fits-All church be the answer? I’m not so sure. Some indications show that small may be the next big thing.
Christiana Rice co-authored a book entitled To Alter Your World: Partnering With God to Rebirth Our Communities. And she herself is experimenting with new forms of being the church. And a big part of that is being small. Her expression of church is a neighborhood faith community. It’s a highly relational model, lived out in homes, parks and schools. The smallness encourages deeper relational engagement. And that leads to deeper faith engagement.
Rice describes herself as a coach for missional entrepreneurs. She works with a lot of church planters. With this clientele, she told me on the Holy Soup podcast, “We’re at a crossroads.” She described a difficult tension: “Church planters often come with dual dreams.” One dream involves a “longing for transformation, for lives to be set free by the power of Jesus Christ.” The other dream imagines bigness. She said she hears some church planters say, “It would be so great if the church I start would become notable and credible. Maybe we could figure out the next blueprint. And maybe we could publish a book about it.”
I, too, sometimes hear church planters, as well as existing church leaders and would-be multi-site aspirants, dream of the notoriety of burgeoning crowds. But is bigness the ultimate prize?
People crave community, and relationship. And for most people, knowing Jesus comes through relationship. That looks more like a friend-to-friend interaction than a speck in a crowd. Maybe the church of the future will look more like a neighborhood than a crowded concert hall.
I invite you to listen to Christiana Rice’s intriguing insights in this week’s Holy Soup podcast, here.
Christiana Rice will participate in a session entitled “Small Is the New Big” at the upcoming Future of the Church conference in Colorado. Discover how you can attend at TheFutureoftheChurch.com.
Amen tell like it is
Seems to me the only way to serve the needs of neighbourhoods, is to “get small.’
Nailed it! Been researching, teaching and doing this for years… and a number of other communities here in South Africa. This is a God-thing happening around the world for decades now. Of course, we are ever learning and hopefully ever teachable.
Bigness is a business measure of success. I think a Jesus model for success is reproduction. In other words, is discipleship happening and is it producing more disciples who go out and make more disciples. That doesn’t have to happen in one location. It should spread.
The only time Jesus commented on numbers was that where ‘two or three are gathered in My name’, he’d be there. It’s the world’s way to count ‘bigness’, not a Kingdom way. Focus on 2 or 3 and the numbers will grow exponentially. Focus on 5,10, 20 percent growth and you’ll be big but ineffective and shallow. Someday, we’ll ‘get it’….
Amen! I believe that one of the biggest faults I see in large assemblies is the fact that because of their size they lose their real reason for gathering together.
There are few if any mega churches in the UK, and personally I would feel uncomfortable in one. Are there places for mega churches in our walk with Jesus? I believe there are, but mostly we need intimate, familiar, friendly welcoming community on a much smaller and truly personal level. The Kingdom of God is not about earthly success, big numbers and razzamatazz, it is about something that lasts, something that takes our sweat, time and effort, something that is built to last, like those castles in North Wales still standing after 700 or so years.