Anyone who has been taken to church as a child, or who has been around any bible teaching even a little bit would at least know about David and Goliath. It is the story in 1 Samuel 17 that shows how young David showed up on the battle field and killed the Philistine warrior.
This story is a picture of a young boy saving the day when all of Saul’s army of fighting men were too afraid. Sometimes a smaller congregation might look at the ministry field in this way. Of course, the smaller church being young David in this scenario.
Most likely, many of the smaller churches, 60 people or less, actually end up portraying a picture similar to that of Gideon found in chapter 6 of Judges. Many small churches today are found hiding in their proverbial wine presses trying to evangelize the community but never leaving the church.
All the while, the larger churches seemingly continue to grow and seem to be making disciples daily. Much like that which we see in Acts, these churches are out in the public squares and attracting attention. Many are doing so for the sake of the gospel and making disciples and doing well at it.
Some of these larger churches or mega churches even have unknowingly lost track of the mission and become something that they did not set out to be. But that is another blog. I digress. Not all churches, large, small, or somewhere between are actually making disciples. There is a big difference between making disciples and filling up a building and calling it church.
Most anyone could fill up a building full of people. That is the easy part. The difficulty is to get people to come to hear the gospel and be a part of the Kingdom of God. I once was dropping my son off at college and overheard two college girls talking. “I have tried a few churches since we started school. I think it is good to see what a church has to offer me.” One said to the other.
At first, I thought to myself “how selfish can people be, all they are looking for is how the church can serve them.” As time went on and I look back, I realize that is what most people are thinking when they come into a church.
When we try to look at things from that perspective, it is important to notice that many churches, small or large are doing everything they can to love God and love others. Many are affective and being used by God greatly. Small and Large churches. Both are bring glory to the Kingdom of God and both are being used in powerful ways by God!
So, why then do some smaller churches seem to be failing or are indeed, and most of the larger churches or “mega” churches never seem to fail? Once again, it is a matter of perspective. Just as for David and Gideon, their perspectives caused their actions to be what they were.
There are many small congregations throughout the world who are standing firm in the truth of God’s word and standing in the face of a giant in the form of government hostility, social hostility, Spiritual hostility, and even ecumenical hostility! Yet because, like the church seen in the book of Acts, they too are filled with the Holy Spirit of all might God and are staying faithful to that work.
At the same time, there are way too many smaller congregations who have hidden themselves inside their church walls and refuse to do any ministry because they are trapped by fear that they will lose their church. They fear that may lose their church if they spend any money on ministry efforts, “what if they can’t pay the bills? They fear that they may lose their church if they make decisions that upset those still there who then will leave.
Also, they fear they may lose their church if they actually do ministry and it works. If that happens, a lot of people will start coming and “take over their church”. All the while they fool themselves into believing that they are “threading wheat”/doing ministry when no one in the community really knows that they exist. Meanwhile, God is trying to say to them, “The Lord is with you, valiant warrior.” Judges 6:12 (CSB)
Just down the street or in the next town, there are churches who have hundreds if not thousands of people attending each Sunday. These larger church have many ministries active in their communities and many people are coming into closer relationships with God and each other. These churches provide various types of ministry from children to adult spiritual edification. Not to mention outreach opportunities. God is using these churches very powerfully and people are know Him and He is being glorified!
On the other hand, there also are many churches who are filling up large buildings with people and there is music, ministries, and seemingly everything that was described in the last paragraph except, the teaching is not there. Something is wrong in the doctrine or the motives behind the leadership, or even something else behind the scenes. In these cases, many people are being misled and actually getting further and further away from the truth of Gods word. This also is another blog post for later.
The point is that there are people who are looking for what is true. There are many churches out there, all claiming that we have the “true” truth. So, what then? What happens to the college girls who are looking for a church that will meet their needs? And why do many smaller churches fail while other seem to be healthy. Why do these college girls, and people like them, decide not to attend the smaller congregations?
Many say it is because of the music, or the age of the congregation. I really cannot make much argument about that. However, I will say that God is bigger than that. It is true, the larger churches seem to be offering the worship experience that many young people are responding to and many older folks are rejecting.
I will also offer this element of blame, most people are like sheep and they follow the crowd. It is easy to follow the crowd. If there is a larger church where people can just show up and be served or hide out, they most likely will not have to get involved. I believe that if a church could serve whatever they offer out a drive through window, people would use it. Not all people, but some would.
The bottom line here is that there really is no answer to the “what’s wrong with this picture” question that gets painted here. I would say to the small church congregation, take courage, God is the same for you as He is for all. I would say to the larger church congregation,
“Let your eyes look forward; if your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all our ways will be established. Don’t turn to the right or the left; keep you feet away rom evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27
I would also encourage the small churches to press on and work hard trusting God while I would encourage the larger churches to consider the smaller churches as valuable as well as partners in ministry!
Each of us, large, medium or small congregations would do good to consider the words of Jesus spoken to Peter as he asked Jesus; “Lord, what about him?” John 21:21 (CSB). Referring to John possibly living forever. To which Jesus answered; “If I want him to remain until I come, ….. what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” John 21:22
Help your church glorify God in all that it does. As far as what God is doing with the other congregations in the world, “what is that to you?”. Jesus has a way of telling us to mind our own business.