We're Working On
Recently I had a conversation with a friend who was quite convinced that church leadership at various levels should be thinking more in terms of establishing a number of church plants in a given area as opposed to a mega-church presence. When asked why, my friend suggested that large churches don’t allow for the kind of community and fellowship people need. But is that true?
As I considered our chat a thought and a question came to mind. First, the thought: the coldest church I have ever preached in had 35 people who called it home. “Small” does not guarantee
closeness or intimacy, nor does “large” inevitably mitigate against community. Second, the question: So should we be then planning to stay small? Are we wrong to consider establishing larger churches?
It becomes problematic in my mind when we approach this issue from an ‘either/or’ vantage point; either we plant several small congregations or we always aim to grow big. I discovered as a pastor of a small church (average attendance of 39 when we arrived) that there are indeed people who like being part of a small congregation. But when on staff at a church of around 1000 I discovered some people came there because it was big. It provides both a degree of anonymity many enjoy while at the same time a generous offering of programs and services not available at smaller churches.
Both planning to stay small and aiming to grow big as congregations have benefits and liabilities. One must bear in mind that numerical size, either small or large, in and of itself does not provide an accurate read of whether a congregation is flourishing or not. What do you think?
Recently I picked up a book entitled Architecture and Theology: the art of place (Baylor University Press, 2017) by Murray A. Rae, Professor of Theology at University of Otago, New Zealand. Rae does a masterful job of bringing together his two rather diverse backgrounds of architecture and theology as he articulates his conviction that art is not only a means of conveying aesthetics or emotion, but it provides a vehicle for doing theology. In particular, he focuses on spatial arts, and in particular specifically, the built environment or what he refers to as ‘the art of place.’
The redemptive nature and content of the gospel, Rae believes, is to be conveyed not only verbally or in the way we as Christians live, but also in the spaces we design and worship in. Because of this he argues that architecture resides not only in the realm of the arts, but should be considered a conversation partner at the theology table as well.
This is not a quick read, but is well worth the effort in gaining a greater appreciation for the fact that our church buildings can and should do much more than keep the rain off. They express who we are what we believe.