One of the greatest challenges for every church planter is firstly to crack the 45 person ceiling. Then the second and more difficult is to pillage through the 150 mark. The clever people say that is even more difficult. It does seem to be so.
Mark Driscoll says it this way: " A congregation of 150 can usually gather in one service and exist as one large community, yet have the resources to hire a pastor and function with greater programming for the people. In “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell argues that the Rule of 150 states that the highest number of people the average person can connect with is 150 and that explains why many groups cease growing at that number. For examples he cites the Methodist movement of John Wesley that collected people into communities of about 150, in twenty-one hunter-gatherer societies the average village had 148.4 people, most military fighting units are under 200, and Hutterite communities grow no larger than 150 by design. Therefore, any congregation committed to evangelism and the extension of its ministry should expect to find people feeling displaced once their communities grow beyond about 50 and 150 people, particularly when communication can no longer be conducted solely by face to face contact with the point leader and when a church transitions to two worship services"
I want us to explore the implications, ideas and actions required to go through this merciless ceiling. Lyle Schaller of in his book 'A Very Large Church" gives these statistics of the church in America:
Churches under 45 are about 25% of the total
under 75 50 - 60%
under 150 75%
under 350 95%
under 800 98%
over 800 2%
Whilst this is more of a sociologist report than a theological set of conclusions, there is much to be discussed around these stats. Is that God's sovereign intention or simply our free will? Can we change God's level of talents and gifts he gives us or must we simply accept things for what they are? Is it out of intentionality or ignorance that these ceilings are reached? Is it simply through prayer that we grow or are there things we need to change? Can we reinvent our style or are we simply the way we are?
Is it not interesting that Acts 1:12 - 26 esp vs 14 + 15 " All these were together with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus and his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the brothers [the company of persons was in all about 120]...
Out of the text we can see the essence of that community size:
i. All were at everything,
ii. It was highly family orientated,
iii. Leadership was very casual and collaborative,
iv. Communication was very informal and face to face
v. There was an ease of 'togetherness'
vi. And like the great philosophy class of the 80's 'Cheers' - "I want to go to a place where everyone knows my name".
But that was just the beginning...