To roughly quote another believer, speaking during a discussion on a church expansion proposal: â€œIf you had the choice between attending a church composed of 500 or more adherents, including a precentage of believers, or a church of 125 or so, mostly believers, which would you choose?”
An interesting question. One’s answer will likely determine one’s reaction to our discussion, and possibly reflect a theological view. The speaker’s answer was somewhat clear in his phrasing, but the question remains.
A large or very large congregation offers the substantial resources to support many worthwhile and useful ministry programs and projects. These might include, but are not limited to, Youth groups and activities, small group ministry support, missions and missionaries, worship (team) equipment and support, additional Pastoral staff to support special areas and congregation subgroups, and much more. All of these have valuable objectives and serve the Kingdom. However, the focus can easily shift to the programming itself.
The small congregation offers an intimacy of contact that is hard to replicate (despite various programs to address it) on the larger scale. In that closer contact there is often more room for (and likelyhood of) close fellowship on the congregational scale, and assuming a Christian mindset and leadership are in place, possibly a greater opportunity to personal development of Christian character. At the same time, with obviously less resources, there are very strict limits on the type and variety of activities that can be undertaken. The exclusion of some people and significant acitivities may be unavoidable. These limitations are especially true in the area of Pastoral staff, where salaries and benefits are directly related to congregational size in most circumstances.
Which is better? There is likely no ‘correct’ answer, and the answer given will depend upon what a particular believer is seeking in fellowship. However, this leads to an allied question. To what degree is the church a service organization, and what are the true and proper priorities within the Body?
Questions, questions, questions…