Tuesday, July 25, 2006

All I could say was "Wow!"

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Psalm 8:3-5

I had seen it in pictures, but I wasn't really prepared for the beauty and magnificence of God's handiwork when I stepped up to the rim of the Grand Canyon for the first time. All I could say was "Wow!"

God got that one right!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Is Bigger Necessarily Better?

I don't have all of my thoughts together on this. But, I am questioning in my own mind the drive of many mainline denominations toward the mega-church model. I belong to a denomination that places a rather significant emphasis on the "K-Church". K Churches are churches that average more than 1000 in regular worship attendance. I have a friend that is starting a new church that challenges many of the models of church planting. That activity along with some other personal experiences have me wondering about some things.

As I said at the beginning, I don't have all my thoughts together on this one. Rather I have more questions than I have answers at this point. I'll get to those in a moment. But first, I have a few observations.

I grew up in a series of churches that rarely exceeded 200 in attendance on any given Sunday. Most of the churches that I have been fortunate enough to worship in have been under 100 in regular attendance. In fact, my "favorite" church up to this point was right at 200 in regular attendance. It was my favorite for many reasons. I served on my first church board at that church. We went through a building program, a pastoral search and had many other real and exciting experiences in that church. We were part of a great group of young couples and we were heavily integrated into the life of the church through various avenues of involvement. We knew everybody. Everybody knew us.

By contrast, up until recently, we were worshipping in one of the largest churches in the metropolitan Houston area. A church with the stated goal of getting larger through acquisition of smaller churches, through satellite churches operating in theaters, and through traditional growth and influx. Their motto is "one church in three locations." I know the pastor by name only. I think I know his wife's name. I don't know his children's names. He doesn't know me. He wouldn't even know I was a member if we ran into each other in the grocery store. If I was to get sick, or be in the hospital, or have a family crisis I wouldn't have a clue who to call. The Bible study class that we attended right before we left had about 110 people who attended regularly.

So, here are some questions that are in my head:

  1. Is bigger necessarily better?
  2. What is the ideal size church?
  3. What is the value of a large church that cannot be found in a smaller church?
  4. How do you achieve a sense of "family" in a church of 6000?
  5. Is "one church in three locations" a Biblical model?
  6. Is the small church passé?
  7. Are we doing a disservice to many pastors who work hard and labor long in churches that may never be mega churches when we glorify these mega-church pastors?
  8. Do you need a certain number of folks to make a "critical mass" before you can impact your community?
  9. Is the community church a dieing breed as more folks flock to the mega-church?
  10. Who is driving this? Is it the denomination's leaders? Is it the pastors of these big churches? Is it the Church Boards and/or Deacons?
Again, I know there will be some strong opinions on this. But, let me ask you to look at this on a very practical level. For those of you who attend a mega church, who in your church would you call if you found out today that you were facing a crisis like cancer or the loss of a loved one? If that is too depressing to answer, let me put a positive spin on it. If you or your daughter was planning a wedding, would she want the pastor to officiate and hold it in the mega church, or would she prefer a more intimate setting?

I don't think there are inherently right or wrong issues here. But, I know in my heart that I do not feel as connected to the church as I have in years past. And that is a desire of my heart. To be connected. To be connected to the Lord Jesus Christ. And to be connected to his body, the church.

I would gladly give up the big projection screens, the lighting effects, the professional musicians and the slickly produced worship services for a family altar time on Sunday morning and an offertory by a young person just learning to play the piano. But maybe that is just me.