[Tweet “The size of the church does not determine the significance it has in a community. “]
Like many things in life, in the church we have fallen for the lie that size matters. The bigger the church is, the more significance it has, right? No one writes articles or makes headlines for having a smaller church. We build entire lists around the biggest churches and the fastest growing ones. And don’t get me wrong, I am all for the church growing faster and the church growing bigger, specifically when it’s growing because people are coming to know Jesus and becoming more like Him. If that is the engine behind the growth, who would want a smaller church, God or the devil? But I digress.
Big doesn’t mean better but small doesn’t mean more Scriptural either. Just because a church is big doesn’t mean it’s watered down and just because a church is small does not make it weak. That’s the two camps we tend to fall in as Christians today! “That church is huge, they must not be preaching the true Gospel.” “That church is so small, they must not be very strong!” God is not pro-big church or pro-small church, God is pro significant church!
So what are some characteristics of a church with significance? Yes, there big churches who are very weak and make little tangible impact for God in their community or His Kingdom, and yes there are small churches that are making giant waves in the Kingdom of God. And please remember, there is no right way to do church but every church should point THE way back to God. I just happen to believe that no matter the size of the church it can find it’s significance in these four areas:
[Tweet “There is no right way to do church but every church should point THE way back to God.”]
1. Is it a reaching church? — A church that doesn’t intentionally reach people for Jesus is a Church that’s not all about Jesus, because Jesus was all about reaching people! From His own mouth He said I came to “seek and to save the lost”. Seeking indicates reaching! And when I say “reaching” I’m not talking about having a sign that says “Everyone Welcome”. When everyone is welcome you won’t need a sign. When everyone is welcome, people who once felt rejected by the Church will find a home in yours and will tell other “rejected people” that this is a place we can call home!
A reaching church doesn’t necessarily have an “evangelism” program either, their programming is just built around evangelism. From the Sunday worship experience to the small group ministry to the student ministry to the outreach serving opportunities, all of it is done with the mindset that we might connect with people who don’t know Jesus. A reaching church says, “as long as there is one more person in our community who doesn’t know Jesus then we are not done.” Small churches can reach people just as much as big churches can. Reaching is not a math issue it’s a mindset!
2. Is it a raising church? — Once people are reached, how are we raising them to be like Jesus? In the Christian world we call this discipleship. Which by the way, you can’t make disciples without first having converts. Without reaching people for Jesus we won’t have anyone to raise to be like Jesus! You need a decision to follow Jesus before you can disciple someone to do so.
Discipleship is not a program, it’s a process. Just because you have small groups doesn’t mean people are being discipled. Just because you do Sunday school doesn’t mean people are becoming more like Jesus. The right curriculum will never produce the right outcomes. People learn in different ways and they grow at a different pace. This means programs won’t work but processes will. What is the discipleship process at your church? Do you have one? What is your plan to raise people to be like Jesus?
I think sometimes us large churches can assume this is happening because “look at all the people” and us small churches can hide our reaching problem by saying “we’re focused on discipleship”. If there is anything we’ve struggled with the most at Element Church, it’s this. In fact, this is something that seems to be in a continual state of addressing for us as leaders. “How are we doing at raising up people to be like Jesus?” It’s not an easy task! You can’t force someone to be a disciple you can only provide the process for them to grow!
[Tweet “You can’t force someone to be a disciple you can only provide the process for them to grow! “]
3. Is it a releasing church? — A church with significance will be a place where people are being released to serve and released to lead. Are people being called into ministry or the mission field in this church AND is their a process that helps them accomplish that calling? Are people being released to do the work of the ministry instead of the “ministers” doing all the work? Again, there is a problem with this in both large and small churches. Typically the bigger church says, “Let’s hire someone to do that” and the smaller church says, “Isn’t that what we pay the pastor for?” A releasing church says, “How are we going to equip and release people to do the work of the ministry?”
Yes, the larger the church the larger the staff will need to be, and I get that. But the larger the church gets, the less you should hire leaders to do the work of the ministry and the more you should hire leaders who can equip and release the saints to minister along side them. On the flip side, the smaller church pastor may have to do more of the day to day tasks than a larger church pastor will, but this doesn’t mean that the smaller church shouldn’t also be equipping and releasing leaders.
Paul didn’t give a size requirement when he told the pastors in Ephesians to equip God’s people to do His work and to build up the Church. It’s not a size thing it’s a significance thing.
4. Is it a relying church? — This one is the hardest to quantify but is probably the most important one to achieve. In order for a church to be significant, whether it’s large or small, it must rely fully on the power of the Holy Spirit! No matter the size of church it’s easy to fall into the rut of just going through the motions. “This is what we’ve always done” or “This is just what we do.” When we stop relying on the Holy Spirit and start leaning on anything else we are doomed. Whether we lean on our talents (which God gave us by the way), our facilities, programs, people or anything else, all of those things fall woefully short of the one person we must rely on…Jesus and His Holy Spirit!
No one on the outside can truly judge whether a church is living out this fourth one or not, but it needs to be figured out. Small church or big, if we aren’t relying on the Holy Spirit we will have no significance at all.
These aren’t the only four things you will find or the only four things you will need to be a church of significance but they are one’s that rose to the top for me. Also, all four of these things should be under constant scrutiny. What worked at reaching people even ten years ago has changed. You should constantly be evaluating and asking these questions, “are we reaching, are we raising, are we releasing and are we relying?” In the cross hairs of those four things you will most likely find your significance in the community!