Even churches have experimented with the notion of "belonging before believing". With mixed success, this desire has created a resurgence of the notion of 'house churches' as well as 'missional communities', all of which reflect the wrestles the church is having to fill that relational void that resonates in the modern world and even in the modern church.
Our conversation is around growing beyond the 150 mark in our communities. This is the third in the series of blogs on this subject. We want to both explore the wonder of the church that is this size as well as the ingredients that tend to keep them there. Bearing in mind that many young church planters are moving away from the megachurch model and mindset. There is a major need to negotiate ourselves away from 'smallness is better'. It is not size that determines our effectiveness but obedience to God, His Word and our quest for the authentic and the real.
Some of the ingredients of these smaller communities include the following: [If we are to walk our churches through growth, we must understand the 'sociology of smallness' and how we are to walk our folks beyond this]
- Everyone knows everyone,
- Caring is measurable and achievable,
- Everyone feels like they belong,
- Role and positions are clear and secure,
- The pastor and leaders are accessible to all,
- All activities are attended by all,
- Communication is informal, face to face and very verbal,
- Arrangements can be changed at the last minute, as 'everyone will understand',
- Administrative deficiencies are overlooked because 'that is the way he is',
- Admin chaos is called 'organic', [but is extremely frustrating to all]
- A spirit of 'generalists' exists as everyone is involved everywhere-'just fill the gaps' ,
- Lack of excellence is forgiven as we 'know the person's heart',
- The cringe factor of poor presentation is more readily understood and accepted,
- Gatherings are more like casual family dinners than having guests around so we accept shoddy table settings and left overs,
- There is not a high desire for evangelism for there is not a real drive to grow - it will disrupt the status quo,
- Friends, family, work associates are not brought along as there is no expectation for salvation and, truth be told, folks are embarrassed,
- Gatherings are scripted to facilitate the community and not to get folks to Jesus,
- It is expected that the visitors must 'fit into our world' not we who are to be 'all things to all so by all means possible, some might be saved',
- It is expected that 'the priesthood must have room to operate' often without the reality check of whether they are truly gifted in that area, - 'just let the gifts flow or you are controlling',
- The community is held together around relationships that are often highly sentimental and are to be loyally defended at all costs.
This is not a comprehensive list. It is sufficient however for more conversations for those of you who lead these sized churches. To go through this very real barrier to growth, it requires a theology of multiplication, but also a deep and profound soul conversation that requires all to change. Growth brings change. This is the second most profound thing that folks fear, hereby keeping us small, cozy, intimate and introspective.
Next blog we will discuss how to move from 'Friends' to 'The Unit'...