In Praise of Smaller Churches: 10 Positives…

Posted by on Sep 27, 2018 in Blog | 10 comments

Almost every church I come into contact with (and over the years, that has been a fair few), wants to be bigger than it presently is. They look a little enviously at churches in the next size category, and imagine that if that were them, most of their problems would be solved. Their pastor (if they have one) assumes that if they were larger, they would be more respected by their colleagues and – well, let’s face it, we live in an era where bigger is usually assumed to be better.

To be sure, large churches have many things going for them – and I certainly don’t want this post to be seen as running larger churches down. They have their place – and it is an important one. A lot is expected from those who have been entrusted with much, and while the responsibility can feel heavy, the privilege should not be overlooked.

But smaller churches also have many things going for them – and it’s worth noting the positives. Here are a few – you might like to add some others…

1) Smaller churches more accurately represent our position in society. They help us to assess our place more soberly, and remind us of our need to win the trust of our society again. While this might not seem especially inspiring, it helps us to to deal with reality – a reality that can be hidden when we worship in large churches which give the false impression that Christianity is flourishing in our part of the world.

2) You can’t hide in a small church. Consumer Christianity is not an option, and those who attend are usually invited to pull their weight fairly quickly.

3) We learn the most and usually become better disciples when we do, rather than when we watch. Large churches often have many spectators, while smaller churches have a high percentage of participants.

4) You don’t get to pick who you will befriend in small churches. You relate to everyone – and that is a good thing. By contrast, in larger churches we tend to look for people who are rather like us – and simply because the church is large, they can be found… but where is the stretch when we remain in the echo chamber of those who simply reinforce our existing views?

5) Smaller churches are usually better at helping people on the fringes of society to fit in.

6) Smaller churches are often more prophetic. They have less to lose, and are consequently less afraid to dissent from the mainstream – be that the mainstream of the wider culture or of church culture… and both often need to be challenged.

7) You can sing, dance, preach, and take your turn at leadership in small churches, without being auditioned or quietly ignored. Sure, you might not be the best at these things, but there is a tolerance for the ordinary – indeed, often a celebration of the ordinary – and much can be gained from it.

8) People miss you when you don’t attend. You do actually matter in a small church.

9) Small churches are more commonly local churches. Often their members live within walking distance. They worship where they live… And that helps keep things transparent and honest.

10) Small churches tend to operate from the grass roots up, and to be less in awe of charismatic leadership. That is definitely a plus – as we have been damaged by our over reliance on charismatic figures who with monotonous regularity end up letting us down badly (yes, there are pleasing exceptions to that – but not nearly enough).

Are small churches more biblical? Don’t think we can answer that question. In the formation stage of the church, most churches were small – small enough to meet in the homes of the members. But that doesn’t mean that larger churches have no place – just that it is not how the church started. Jesus focused on his 12 disciples – hardly a large, impressive crowd. But there were times when he preached to thousands. We really don’t have to pretend that the one is right and the other wrong.

So why this post? I guess I simply want to say to those of you who worship at smaller churches – delight in the church God has placed you. There are some things that large churches do brilliantly well. But there are some areas where small churches excel. The grass isn’t greener on the other side – it is greenest where it is watered most. So invest in the community where God has placed you, and remember it is often when we actively reach out to bless others, that we ourselves are most richly blessed.

As always, nice chatting…

10 Comments

  1. Thanks Brian and as you said, “The grass isn’t greener on the other side – it is greenest where it is watered most.” It is very true that it is important to gratefully appreciate where we are placed by God and faithfully invest in the community in which we belong to.

    Grace and peace.

  2. Thank you Brian – great post

  3. Thanks for this encouragement Brian. I attend a smaller church and it can be discouraging at times when the participants are spread so thin. But all these points are true and valid. Thanks for helping me see my church in such a positive light.

  4. Thanks for this post Brian.
    For a variety of reasons I believe in the value of the smaller church. In my community, definitely a smaller church, we are building a future where we are planning on planting more small communities rather than a larger and larger single one. We realise this is neither a new nor common approach but we are confident. As you note, there is value in being known, in recognising our place in the community at large (a new insight so thanks), in making room for many and varied humans, for being welcoming to those we are like and those we are not, and we are not too fussed about shiny leadership. Our community is a beautiful thing and we are enjoying ourselves immensely.

  5. What a wonderfully encouraging post I found this to be. Living and working in a very remote community, it is indeed a very small church.
    This morning as I delivered a meal to a community client at the annual gulf Churches convention, by the river, the sight of devotions being held under a shelter beside a beautiful, still river was amazing. The thought that came to my mind was..”Where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst”.
    A powerful and encouraging start to my day, given I had just read your article.

  6. Dear Brian. As a member of a small community church here in the West, who has had the pleasure of hearing you preach on occasions, I sincerely thank you for your post. I agree with all that you have suggested and to abstain myself from my church and that fellowship would be like removing a vital organ in my body.

  7. Hi Kenny, Terry, Heather, Monica, Lyn and Bevan. Good to hear from each of you, and appreciate your insights. Thanks for joining the conversation – and every blessing in your setting.

  8. Thanks for an insightful thought. Always refreshing. Many Blessings to you Brian

  9. Brilliant post and so true. Thanks for sharing

  10. Thanks Brian for your comments certainly helps to keep focus I. The right place. Blessings

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