After discussing “market share” Christianity a little while ago, I bumped into a couple of “ideas.”
First: Willow Creek (WC), a mega-church outside of Chicago, gave a church-wide survey in 2004. The leadership believed WC was growing, that the attenders of WC were growing. (They defined growth as increasing love for God and increasing love for people.) The survey was intended to show them what methods and tools were working to promote growth. They were shocked to find that all their assumptions were wrong. They assumed, like many churches, that increasing church participation (attending worship, small groups, Bible studies, work groups or short-term missions) meant growth. When the data was analyzed, they found that increased “numbers” to not mean growth.
Second: With “market share” Christianity, the primary assumption is “bigger is better.” There are “economies of scale” gains in impact, effectiveness and efficiency. But, there has also been push-back about mass production, cookie cutter methodologies. The reasoning is as follows: if each person is unique, has a personal place and function in the body of Christ, then such methodologies will not work. The church needs craftsmen and not assembly lines. So, there is a growing movement of people who espouse a “smaller is better” philosophy. Smaller allow for more personal attention and greater craftsmanship-like concern. So, there is a call for house or cell church models. (And I confess a personal draw in this direction.)
The second “bump,” however, is not that mega is bad and micro is good. It is that, maybe. Churches have their attention in the wrong place, on the wrong things. Jesus’ marching orders are to make disciples, who are obedient to all his commands … including the command to make disciples, who themselves make disciples.
The Bible says that God gave leaders to the church, who will prepare his family to do his work. And, as each part does its work, the body grows … increase in love for God and people. Since, Scripture equates loving God and loving people with keeping his commands, doing God’s work is, in part, keeping his marching orders.
The second “bump” is that churches need to adjust their thinking to provide better methods of equipping and preparation. It could be possible this preparation can only be done in micro settings. But size does not ultimately define the quality or focus of the preparation.