Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Keller on Church size - disadvantages of the very large church

There can be issues that the increasing size of a church can bring:

- Commuting longer distances can undermine mission. Very large churches can become famous, attracting Christians from further afield who cannot easily encourage non-Christian friends and neighbours to come along. The result is that the congregation ceases to be representative of the immediate neighbourhood. This can be offset by church planting and being relentless in a mission orientation.

- Commuting longer distances undermines community/fellowship and discipleship. Those who travel longer distances are not likely to plug into real Christian community and receive discipleship benefits. The person you meet on a Sunday is unlikely to live near you, inhibiting natural friendships and connection. This can be offset by an effective small group system.

- Diminished communication and involvement. A very large church can outgrow its internal communication system and so plateau. People begin to feel the loss of a sense of belonging and numerical decline can set in. In such a church people become unsure who to talk to about an issue – staff members may not know about systems outside their own ministry and the long list of staff and ministries is overwhelming. No-one feels they can get info quickly; no-one feels they know how to get involved. This can be offset by upgrading the communication system – extraordinarily important in a very large congregation.

- Displacement. Those who joined when the church was smaller feel a sense of loss and may have difficulty with the new size culture. They may no longer be connected to events, decision-making and the senior leader. ‘Old-timers’ who leave will be sad - and so will those long-term members who remain. This can be offset by giving recognition for the changes they have made over the years and not making them feel guilty for missing the old ways and the smaller church! Eventually this issue lessens – those who join a church of 1500 will not notice much of a difference when that church reaches 4000.