I recently returned from Exponential East conference in Tampa Florida, where the theme for the entire conference was multiplication—to grasp the church’s calling of making disciples who in turn make more disciples. One speaker summed it up when he said that a church should never become a “lake-church” where believers flow in but never exit. Every church should be a “river-church” where believers flow in, flow out, and start new churches. When a congregation becomes excessive in size, it’s time to rethink the biblical model for church, which promotes a “fisher-of-men” mentality, executed through church-planting.
When Being a Small Church Is Okay.
When a new church plant takes place, the church starts small. It’s an exciting time where living in faith is paramount as a small leadership team implements a big vision. When a long-standing congregation, however, remains small in number over the years, it calls for urgency. An established church, remaining small in number, with no growth or outreach potential fails to grasp the “fisher-of-men” mandate and falls into the same trap as a megachurch who keeps adding more to it’s numbers.
Here are 5 principles to ignite the cause for small-church mentality.
- Church Planting Is a Must: When your congregation reaches an elaborate size where the church building is unable to house attendees, even with multiple services, it’s time to start a new church plant. It’s a frightening undertaking for many pastors due to the fear of decreased tithing and membership, yet church planting is unparalleled in its gospel outreach potential. Bring church to the community, not the other way around.
- Small Church Leadership Is Powerful: A megachurch runs the risk of being operated like a business. Sometimes the pastor is less a shepherd and more a CEO. Instead of spiritual elders, the board may be a group of visionary businesspeople. Quick decision making in a megachurch is generally a nightmare. Small church leadership, on the other hand, carries with it an incredible freedom where the entire leadership team, due to its small size and lack of financial stability, often operates in leaps of faith. Adding numbers is less important than changing hearts. It’s an inspiring movement where church goers, experience God’s provision, first-hand. Nothing builds, edifies, and excites more than godly success of a new church movement in a community.
- Stagnation Is Never an Option: When starting a new church, while small in number, attendees run the risk of becoming too comfortable and stagnating. There is only consuming, and no contribution. The movement of small-church carries incredible outreach potential when the leadership team models the Great Commission and it ripples throughout the lives of the congregation itself. Every church should be started with the aim to equip new believers, and then send them out to start more churches.
- The Gospel Ignites Through Multiplication: Study the growth of Christianity in persecuted countries, and you’ll find the similar results of ever-expanding small church movements. Why? The gospel was never meant to be kept silent. In fact, if the Good News does not fuel a fire in you to share it with others, you may have heard a wrong version of it. Communities are changed, because believers grasp the essence of outreach, through the birth of small communities of faith. Their foundation remains that of disciple-making and edification. Their mandate is always to share the gospel at any cost.
- A Low Cost of Operation: Phrasing church within the lingo of business is unsettling, but as with any movement, operational costs are present. A small church carries less burden of investing in its facility, equipment, and maintenance than a big or expansive building-driven ministry. This provides the opportunity to push existing funds into community outreach, which holds a higher kingdom return. When the hearts of communities are changed with the gospel, they ignite more movements that carry gospel—igniting outreach on a bigger scale, with less funding.
Being a small church or starting a new church plant holds great potential. When the Great Commission becomes the mandate at the core of the movement, congregational size becomes less important and kingdom expansion takes precedence. A duplication and repetition of small church movements then trumps the outreach potential of a single megachurch could ever hope to achieve.
Hein van Wyk is the Co-Founder and President of Sharefaith, where he innovates, leads and spearheads technology solutions for churches.