Many American Christians have this idea that if a church is big, it must be better. Not necessarily. Our obsession with bigness” can be a reflection of American values rather than biblical ones—size is not the best measurement of church health.
Is it sometimes OK for churches to be small? Absolutely! But before I give you three questions that can show if your small church is healthy, here are three questions that demonstrate when it is OK for a church to stay small.
A Small Unhealthy Church
Is your church staying small even when the community around you is growing?
There is really no excuse for this. Every church in America has un-churched or de-churched people in its neighborhood. As the people of God, on mission with God, we are called to spread the good news and make disciples (Mathew 28:18-20). We are called to water and plant while recognizing that the actual growth is God’s business (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Is your church staying small because you refuse to engage the culture around you?
According to research the healthiest churches are actively seeking to understand and invest in their communities. Some churches have built a bubble around themselves as protection from the world. Sadly, they refuse to acknowledge that sin resides in their own hearts (Romans 5:12), causing them either to implode or die out. Hasn’t Jesus called us to be kingdom witnesses in a dark and broken world (Matthew 5:16)?
Is your church staying small because you love your fellowship but not the lost?
Too many churches—whether 30 members or 3000 members—are full of internally focused customers primarily concerned about themselves. We should seek to cultivate intimate fellowship and care for one another in the church family. However, we have to be intentional about reaching out to those around us with the good news of Jesus. We need to move the church from customers to co-laborers through mission living.
A Small Healthy Church
Is your church staying small because you are in a small community but you are still faithfully engaging those around you?
It is quite possible to be small and remain small faithful. Digging deep roots in one place builds a legacy of gospel persistence. Doesn’t Jesus compare God’s kingdom to a tiny mustard seed or a small amount of yeast (Matthew 13:31-33)? A steadfast and faithful small church can have an impact beyond its appearance.
Is your church staying small because you gather in a transient community but you are reaching new people?
Persistent turnover is a reality for some smaller churches because of their location. Churches near universities and military bases almost have a new congregation every three to five years. Think of these small churches’ kingdom impact as they invest in and train students and soldiers before they are launched throughout the world. These churches focus on discipling those God has given them, knowing he will plant them somewhere else. There are healthy churches on mission for God’s glory.
Is your church staying small because of your facility so you are using your resources for other things?
Often, small churches may consider themselves unable to have large kingdom impact, believing size and resources limit them. However, smaller churches have more freedom to focus their time, energy and money toward caring for neglected neighbors, caring for children and supporting church plants—those close to God’s heart.
Small churches are and have always been the norm. Many small churches are living on mission in their contexts, being about the business of God’s kingdom. FAITHFULNESS AND FRUITFULNESS ARE MORE BIBLICAL MEASUREMENTS FOR CHURCH HEALTH, NOT CHURCH SIZE.