Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ideal Church Size

I just wanted to put my thoughts together on the ideal 'church' size.

(Clarification on how I view the term church: There is only one Church. One family of God. We assemble in smaller gatherings which are typically considered separate local churches.)

No matter what size of a building a 'church' group is meeting in, if it is a health community it will grow. Church growth should be the desire of every believer. However when it grows to a size where it no longer fits the building there is a problem. Especially in colder climates where you really need enclosed buildings to meet in comfort.

I see a few options.

Typical wealthy church option:


Build a bigger building. As the gathering grows these buildings cost millions of dollars and can take decades to pay off. This option may seem normal in some areas of the world, but obviously can't be the solution for all gatherings of the Church worldwide.

If we look at the New Testament we see church growth, yet there is no mention of building programs. I do see a New Testament focus on giving money to the poor. I am afraid these multi-million dollar buildings project distract us from some other needs.

Multiple gatherings in one location:

If the group already has a dedicated facility another option is often having multiple gathering times in the same building. Many churches have 2 or three Sunday morning services in the same building at different times. A case could be made for the validity of a Saturday gathering as well. Or a gathering on any day of the week. One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. (Rom 14:5)

In a sense a split of the community does occur. Not that one group doesn't still love and respect the others, but they just don't gather together as frequently as before.

Each smaller group may need to downsize their expectations of the programs the gathering provides as well. If nobody feels called to teach 'Sunday School' on Saturday night, families can be together. We sometimes assume all this extra stuff is needed.. Sunday School, worship bands, ushers, sound, video... but it is not. Two different gatherings don't need to be double the work for anyone.

Multiple Locations:

Consider how your 'church' was birthed. Someone from another 'church' likely planted it. It is common practice to have 'church planters' leave one gathering and go start something new in a new community. They start with a small gathering in small buildings or homes.

So if your church has grown as the result of this past step of faith. Maybe it's time to consider repeating the process somewhere else.

Vision Outside the Box:

Everyone prays and hopes for the church to have impact in their neighborhood and around the world. Some communities dream this will take shape with thousands of believers gathering in one large building every Sunday morning.

Another dream could be many gatherings in different homes. Instead of one gathering of 1000, you could dream of 40 gatherings of 25. Both would have impact in the community in different ways. The original community could be seen as a sort of a missions sending network. Kind of like how you view the organization or group that planted your church in the first place.

Why do we gather?

People have different expectations and reasons for gathering with other believers. For me it is about fellowship, community, and connecting with part of my spiritual family. I believe mutual edification is a great reason to gather. Scripture not only teaches it, but it also gives examples of how the early church built each other up when they gathered. I think this Alan Knox does a good job exploring this: http://www.alanknox.net/2011/01/mutual-edification-and-the-church-conclusion/

Large gatherings offer many good things, but for me I find mutual edification works better in smaller groups.

There is my 2 cents worth on the topic of ideal church size.

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6 comments:

Eric said...

Jon,

Good stuff brother.

So much of this comes back to one's view of why the church gathers in the first place. If it's for "worship," then it almost doesn't matter how many people are present. If it's primarily for mutual edification, then size is critical.

Do you think there is an upper limit on how big gatherings should be? In other words, at what point does the size of the group begin to hinder edification from taking place?

Jonathan said...

Thanks Eric for the comment. I don't think I'm qualified to define an upper limit. However say 200 people gathered at some picnic event. Mutual edification could happen. However I would likely only have significant interactions with maybe 20 people... I don't know.

Good question. What do you think?

Eric said...

I'm not sure I know either.

For the group to be together and communicate as a whole, I suppose that 40 or so is about max. Once you get over that many the people will necessarily begin to break up into smaller groups. Of course, smaller groups are good, too.

As you said, whatever the size, the key is that mutual edification takes place.

Al said...

This is only somewhat on topic, but....

I long for the day when the Church realizes that worship is more about following Jesus out into the marketplace than it is about getting together to sing. The mutual edification is good and necessary, but let's recognize the limitations of what we can do about bringing the kingdom while we are cloistered inside four walls. I like how one group advertises what they do: 3 Sundays a month they 'gather', the fourth they 'scatter' and do stuff in their community. I think far too many people think that once they have 'gathered' for an hour a week they have really done what God wants them to do, and then live the rest of the week for themselves.

Jonathan said...

Yes Al. I agree. Its more about being the church than going to church. We are the church 24-7, wherever we are.

Frank said...

About 6 of us have been meeting for a few years now.
We were more, but the Lord took some in different directions.
Every meeting is totally unplanned but amazing, way beyond anything any of us have ever experienced elsewhere. God is leading us in exciting directions, and we are learning well outside the box.
All are involved, and everyone speaks as the Lord challenges.

People arrive, and excitedly ask if the others have been listening to the news. This is because specific things we have been led to pray and proclaim for the nation (UK) are being outworked as we watch. The politicians even use the same phrases we have been speaking out!
God has told us how to operate in the secret place, even though we are few in number. We had several prophetic words about being like the SAS. (US. Navy seals?) in the spirit realm. We are clearly outside of the system, and God has emphasised the importance of that fact.

Like Jonathan said, God can save by few or by many. It all depends on who you want to work for, Jesus, or an officer of the institution, Tree of Life, or Tree of Knowledge of good and evil!

When the meetings come to an end we are invariably amazed at the evening, and everyone is buzzing with excitement. We know that God is still building HIS church, secretly, and numbers don't count.