Updated: Mar 27, 2021
Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” This is especially true when it comes to the size of a church gathering. In the case of the church, size matters. The fact is that the larger a church becomes the less effective it becomes in the area of Christian growth, discipleship, potency, authenticity and simplicity. In our day and age, the secret dream of many pastors is to have the biggest church in town. If you reach the magic number of 5,000 then you’ve arrived at the holy grail of church of many pastors and become a “MEGA-church” Pastor! Most Christians ignorantly assume that a big church is the true mark of church excellence. Many in Churchianity quietly pride themselves on belonging to a mega‑church ‑ as if that, in and of itself, makes them a spiritual success. To them, size matters. To them, “bigger is better”. Often, celebrity pastors and their mega-churches are pointed to as outstanding examples of church success by both Churchgoers and secular sources. But is this the kind of church growth or church success God intended? Does God think that bigger is better? Has God really placed His divine seal of “Good Housekeeping” on “bigger is better”? Do numbers really reveal how successful a church is or how effective its leadership is? Despite much evidence to the contrary, many wholeheartedly believe it does. But bigger is not better when it comes to spiritual quality on a number of essential levels. Quantity does not mean quality ‑ quite the contrary. Size often becomes counterproductive and an outright detriment to authentic Christian growth. There may be tons of excitement, activities, programs and church busyness but the essentials of authentic Christian discipleship are lacking. The bigger a church gets the less effective it generally becomes in regard to interaction, individual participation, accountability, authenticity and discipleship- all hallmarks of the early house church model. The only way the church can make up for these inherent deficiencies is to add more hype, more programs, more fun-filled activities and more entertainment. Church success quickly becomes a matter of keeping the numbers growing, the people coming and the people staying. This inevitably leads to more church growth strategies, evangelism gimmicks, church “come-ons”. We resort to programs for the whole family, enticing entertainment, lively worship, comfortable auditoriums, bigger buildings with all the amenities, seeker-sensitive formats and state‑of‑the‑art media systems, etc., etc.
When measured against the effectiveness of the early church, there is no comparison. The early church experienced incredible growth but it wasn’t “Up” but “out”. It grew and divided organically just like any other living organism. It divided cellularly. When a house church reached its limits of effectiveness it quite naturally divided and started another one and so on and so on. Church attendance was not the driving motivator. Christian quality, authenticity and discipleship was the driving factor. Here people met in a non-threatening environment and ate meals together. It wasn’t the least bit artificial, calculating or programmed. They shared, interacted, and related in a spontaneous way with each other as average human beings in a familiar, everyday setting. They were ‘relationship-driven” and not program-driven. Participation and interaction were key ingredients as Paul noted in I Corinthians 14:26. Each had something to contribute – something that becomes increasingly more problematic the bigger you get. It was not a passive, impersonal spectator event but a vibrant interactive time of relationship building, participation and discipleship centered around the Word, fellowship and prayer. So the question is, “what do you want?”