Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Why church must be small (Clarified)

Thankful for Tim's balancing effort and having been thinking that some clarification might have been in order, I am glad with the opportunity presented to do just that. First of all, the (arguably catchy) title came from the full article to which I linked. My short quotation of it, did not to refer to a total church size, but to the size of its primary mode of expression. Hence, my question was not "what total church size is preferable" but "(at what level) church primarily happens".

The way I understand the full article, it does not pertain to a small church. After all, I think we would all agree, that it is primarily the smaller churches that are more prone to suffer from a (we need to be a) "bigger church" mentality, just for the sake of numbers. The author's concern, seems to be, that our primary focus is on a mass gathering on Sundays, while according to his understanding, much of what the Bible describes as constituting church, is very difficult to do in that setting. He notes the practicality that Sundays will always be the most attended "service" of the church and wonders what our response should be in light of the realization that "church" primarily happens within a (necessary limiting) sphere of intimate relationships. So, his basic question is how is one to respond faithfully and pragmatically in what could call forth a dramatic paradigm shift in our mentalities.

The notion of the church's primary expression needing to be small, is hardly revolutionary to our way of thinking. In the most basic terms, it simply highlights the fact, that if each member of the church cannot live out the biblical ideal within the sphere of his/her most intimate relationships, (2-3) why should they be expected to be able to live it out within the context of the extended church family? (200-300) Simply put, I have never heard of anyone leaving a church because "everybody" did not care for them. On the other hand, I have frequently heard people leaving, because after a long time, eventually, they did not find anybody to care for them, so as to allow the building of a mutually constructive spiritual fellowship. So, as far as they were concerned, in the most fundamental sense, they were never a part of that particular local church, to begin with.

Interestingly enough, it was the world's largest churches that realized (through painful experience) what is being lost with a primary focus on the mass gathering, thus kick-starting the whole "small group", "one-to-one" movements. Given that, as far as I know and apart from a few exceptions, most Greek churches do not even see a formal need for either and while constituting a 0.2% of the Greek population has us prone to "minority syndrome" mentalities, I would think that the pitfall of "wearing smallness as a budge of honor", however applicable it might be in countries with a long evangelical tradition, it is still probably a very long way from becoming an issue, in this particular national reality.

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