I get a lot of spam that is direct marketed to me since I’m both a man and a pastor. Recently, I imagined what would happen if the two collided in cyber-space. This is the headline I came up with: “Church grows by three inches.”
I think we are in the age of “church extenze.”
Marketing people are super smart. They know the fastest way to get my money is to strike at my deepest insecurities. I will do most almost anything to drive away the resident thought that I am less than I should be, and, except for my waist size, I cannot think of anything that makes me feel better when it’s smaller.
While bigger might make me feel better, is it really better? I have asked this question of church professionals many times: What is better for the gospel — 100 churches of 100 people or one church of 10,000 people? (These are just some general numbers, I don’t really empirically know that 100 is an “ideal” number.) So far, the response has been unanimous — 100 churches of 100 is better.
Makes sense, right? Less people would equal more involvement, more opportunity to be noticed, more chances for members to tell their story and be known.
I can recall standing on the stage in a room filled with thousands, saying, “Real-life change happens in small groups. You need to join a small group.” I was thinking even as I was saying it, Then (a) Why are we doing this big-event production if we want them to do that? and (b) Why are we budgeting millions to pay for this building and staff and great video for something that is better done for almost free?
Ok, here is what I think happens. A very well-intentioned charismatic white guy who is athletic decides to start a church in a middle-class white neighborhood. He shaves his head and recruits his friend who is a semi-pro musician with tattoos and they are off and running. At the start, they believe that relationships are what matter. They promise you can come and be known and loved. But word gets out that these guys have amazing ability and it begins to grow. As the church grows larger, the smaller churches around it, run by average, humble people, begin to close shop. That’s right, the smaller churches that are small enough so that everyone can be known go belly up. Once the new church buys its first spotlight and mega screen it is all over. The allure of feeling the bass drum and the incredible inspirational tingle is too much. A mass exodus from neighboring churches occurs almost overnight and a megachurch is born. The vortex of awesomeness sucks in all of the people who used to belong to smaller churches.
Then, a bit later on, the megachurch starts a “small-group emphasis,” so that you can be known and loved. Crazy.
Here is a thought: when you reach 300, start a new church. You will not need to borrow millions, you will not need to worry about how to “plug folks in,” and you avoid raiding the congregations around you.
Imagine, if we could be happy with small. I think Jesus would thank us, even if spammers wouldn’t.