God is moving many of his people into transition. Much like Acts 8:1-8 something has arisen that has scattered our gatherings…it has pushed us out of our comfort zones and given us the space to reevaluate what we know as church. It isn’t persecution…it is pandemic.
Sometimes it is hard to have proper perspective on something you are enmeshed with. With many churches taking 9 months away from corporate gatherings, many Christians have gotten the space they needed on two fronts: first to get a clear picture of the limitations of the big gathering that weren’t apparent when you were in the middle of it and second the benefits of trying something new.
Limitations of Big Church
Big church gatherings has limitations in several areas that have only become more apparent over time away:
1 – Very few people do the work for all rather than the priesthood of all believers where everyone does their part. Church displays the 80/20 rule at its finest – 20% of the people do 80% of the work (the pareto principle). People are at their best when they can be involved. Many went home to worship and led worship in their home and won’t go back to the “old way” (you know, the way we did it in 2020!).
2 – A high degree of professionalism is involved in many churches where some roles are only for people with specific training. How many people in your church would be asked to preach on a Sunday, for instance? It is far easier to delegate that in a home environment where people may discover gifts they never knew they had because it was always done for them.
3 – Money is often spent inefficiently – We heat and cool buildings that are empty 90% of the time, among other things. We rely on social media for advertising and advertising dollars rather than word of mouth and the most effective form of advertising – personal invites of those you have relationships and rapport with already.
4 – Decisions are made inefficiently – Committees and multiple levels of decision making with unclear boundaries on authority often make big church decisions. Those decisions can take weeks or months to roll out and even then sometimes nothing actually happens as a result. Seemingly obvious decisions can get bogged down and decisions never made.
5 – Anonymity is easy to pull off in “big church” but that was never God’s intent. We were made to know and be known by others. In a church of 400+ it is easy to go largely unnoticed and fly under the radar.
People are discovering the benefits of trying something new because they were forced to try something new and have something to contrast with the traditional model of church from first hand experience.
The Benefits of New Approaches
1 – Everyone gets involved so everyone is invested and grows in maturity.
2 – Anyone can do the work. When you simplify things and make it less formal even the children can do the work in a way they didn’t have opportunity to do in “big church”. We have experienced this in Backyard Church and it is beautiful!
3 – Money is spent more efficiently – need to help someone with their light bill? Take up a collection for it from those who are attending. Then everyone gets to celebrate and involve themselves in the actual assistance rather than giving week to week into a big pot that you never see where it actually goes or get to celebrate much of anything.
4 – Decisions can be made at a much faster pace – less red tape and less bureaucracy. What used to get bogged down in layers of decision making and weeks of review can be made in real time.
5 – Everyone is known and knows others on a deeper level in a house church. You cannot be anonymous in a backyard or living room. We can develop a real sense of community. The small group ministry you are already used to and all the blessings that come with that kind of ministry becomes the church as a whole.
We may finally have found a time when churches have launched out into the neighborhoods and communities that needed them…where the Christians lived. No more commute to church, driving past thousands of people who need Jesus along the way. Welcome to the new reality of community-based churches where everyone can be involved and grow to maturity!
In this time of change may our eyes be open to the opportunities and the possibilities that God is breaking down barriers and starting something new among us and we get to live through it to see the change! How blessed are we!
None of this is to say “Big church” is inherently bad or evil. I believe it will exist a long time into the future because it has positive advantages that smaller gatherings will not be able to take on or accomplish. More on that another time. I just want you to know this isn’t about bashing the old way of doing things.
If you are having the conversation about how to start a church in your home or neighborhood I would love to connect with you – firstname.lastname@example.org.