How Big is Too Big?

Have you ever wondered if a church could be, or get, too big? I often wonder and also have many opinions on such a subject. Let’s explore the notion, together…

I’ve always had the notion that we were to expand the church, teach others the way which is directly out of the bible, and then as Jesus did with His followers – send them on their way to start up new parishes, churches, and other congregations; but at what point is it considered to be too big? Do we even know the answer to this? Can we answer this?

You have the small town churches which can be very nominal, as low as 25. Unless they are held out of someone’s home, I don’t really see how such is sustainable, but they do exist. Then you can work your way up to the Mega-Church of today which can house up to 2,000 people for services. Then you can move your way up to the Super-Mega-Churches where they are able to gather inordinate numbers of people (16,000-18,000-20,000-22,000-23,000-43,000). In essence, stadium sized gatherings. Did God foretell and predict these numbers? I believe He did.

What gets in the way of all this is man’s pride, arrogance, and selfish motivations. Jesus was the prime example of a church leader: He was kind, generous, giving, faithful, servant of all, always willing to answer questions in just the right way that left you wondering and wanting more. Jesus was angered at just the right moment and was soft & compassionate at the right moment. Jesus taught before few, as well as, Jesus taught before thousands. It is not the numbers that truly bothers me any more, but in the way the teacher addresses  the masses. To teach with such ambiguous platitudes, or perhaps to teach with such a command of the biblical text, but yet the heart of what you teach is not included in you own life…these are the problems which tear men down from the pulpit.

Some people like the really big churches. They just feel more at home in them, almost getting lost among the rabble. There are those of us who prefer to enter smaller venues, a more quaint setting. It tends to be more calming and more conducive to a learning atmosphere. Then, again, there are others who prefer to enter into a mid-sized venue. Who is right?

Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~John 8:31-32 NIV

Believe it or not, it is about comfort zone boundaries, what are yours? Just because someone can handle a bigger or smaller venue than yourself…don’t knock it, it is a God thing! God can work in all sorts of venues. Though, we each may have our own preferences, God can work in any venue at any time at any calling. The only ones that limit God’s output is the lack of faith of man himself. Man has always been a limiting factor in God’s plan. Whether it is because of his lack of repentance (Matthew 11:20, Luke 10:13) or due to a lack of faith (Matthew 13:58, Mark 6:5).

Now we have another problem that arises among this and that is the rising star among the church, itself…the pastor. At times you have one that is wise, frugal, and humble; and at other times you have others who are swept up by the wellspring of power, pomp and circumstance, not to mention greed. Is it wrong for man, a pastor, to make money off his preaching? I believe it is perfectly adequate to do so, but it must be within the stringent guidelines of the bible by not being a braggart, showy, flashy, or arrogant. I am certain there are other traits, but these are the ones that pop in mind rather quickly while writing. This was one of the greatest reasons why I admired Reverend Billy Graham. He was all that I described and more. With respect to his business associations he limited his income, many of the books he wrote all proceeds were donated, and he was still well provided for by God. He could be a model, though he himself would remind us that he was imperfect. He spoke to stadiums and coliseums filled with thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people who sought the will of God. And his dream was just to preach the word of God, which he did both often and very well! Many of his crusades are preserved and can be found on YouTube. But that is enough on Mr. Graham.

Our truest and greatest model for preaching and leading is that of Jesus Himself! He was our savior, our rock of salvation, our shield and our two-edged sword to be used against all evil. He is our intermediary to Our God and Father of all! It is by His name that we can do all things because it is through Him that we are strengthened to accomplish all things! In the name of JESUS! He is the basis upon which our faith is founded and upon which it grows!

Long story – short…WE follow Jesus and the words laid down in the bible, not any pastor, priest, reverend, or minister! If the words spoken do not conform to those of the bible, he is not a messenger of God; also known as, a false prophet. The words of the bible are a life line to us from God, a dictate if you will. We are to follow God alone and His true representatives. Not some charlatan or wizard of words, but a man of God. You must ask yourself a few questions and answer them prior to joining a new congregation:

1. Is this a church where my family will be regularly fed by God’s Word?

2. Is this a church where I am convinced the care of my soul will be a priority?

3. Is this a church where my family will experience meaningful Christian fellowship and accountability?

4. Is this a church where I can serve God’s people and use my gifts for its benefit?

You may have other questions, but these are ones that I thought of and trolled off of the net. There are some web-sites which have a list as long as 41, or more questions…I think that is a bit absurd and over-thinking of a situation. You can search even further and determine for yourselves what you truly need from a church family and a church home. But I would implore you to do your due diligence! Do your homework and do not just follow any pastor willy-nilly. There are many great speakers that portray men of God, but there few ethical, honorable men of God who are great speakers. Choose carefully and wisely!

And there are many large super-mega-churches, but are they truly teaching the word of God? OR are they just using God’s words? There are just as many smaller God fearing congregations with less than 50-100 people in them as there are over 2,000 people congregations. Again, choose carefully and wisely! Take your time and ask questions. Get to know and feel the church community.

Once you find the church community, next you should move onto finding a bible study group, but that’s another topic. Although, it is more about comfort and feel.

May God Richly Bless You My Beloved!

MK Murphy, PhD, DD

 

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