Monday, October 6, 2008

"150? That's Not Bad."

I recently ventured into our local Lifeway Bookstore here in Savannah. As I was perusing some books (which is always a dangerous temptation), I got into a discussion with one of the ladies who works there. I found out that not only is she a Christian, but she also attends a Southern Baptist Church. After we talked about Baptist life for a few minutes, we began to discuss the specific churches we attend.

It turns out that she is a member of one of the larger SBC churches in the city. Her church averages about 500 in attendance on a Sunday morning. She did not tell me this; I just happen to know it because the church is well-known around town.

This is where the conversation took a turn for the weird. She asked me about where I attend. I told her that I am the pastor of Chevis Oaks Baptist. She asked me how big the church is. I told her that on Sunday mornings we average 125-150 people. That's when she said it.

Her response still rings in my ears. She said, "150? That's not bad."

I have no idea what I said after that. I literally cannot remember the remainder of the conversation. A few minutes later I left the store to drive back to the church building.

For much of the rest of the day I thought about her statement. Obviously, based on this post, I am still pondering it. Several related questions come to mind:

Would fewer than 125-150 in attendance be "bad"?
When does "bad" begin for a church?
What number do you have to reach to be "good"?
What scale of measurement is she using?
Is bigger automatically better?

It is the last question that bothers me the most. As many of us have seen, the American idea of "bigger is better" is ingrained in the minds of many Christians. The line of reasoning goes something like this: people attend a church because other people witness to them; witnessing is good; therefore, bigger churches are full of more obedient people; therefore, bigger churches are better.

There are so many problems with that logic that I don't even want to deal with it. What we must realize is that nowhere in scripture is church size even an issue. It is not commended by God. It isn't even mentioned.

God cares much more about the conditions of the hearts of the people who make up the church than He does about the numerical size of the church. God cares that we love Him and love other people. God desires that we care for the weak among us and lead holy lives. God cares that we build each other up in the faith. God wants us to share our faith in Jesus Christ.

Let's focus on what God cares about, and not play the church numbers game. God simply doesn't care about it.

6 comments:

Les Puryear said...

The attitude of the lady you mentioned is exactly why I am working to raise the awareness of the beauty of the small church in SBC circles.

Our call is to be faithful to Christ, not to try to reach arbitrary targets set by men.

Les

Eric said...

Les,

I thought of you when I posted this earlier today. Thanks for helping to open my eyes to the positives of small church life.

Lori said...

Hey--We have a church of 10!

Eric said...

Lori,

That sounds good to me!

Brian said...

We have a church of 10 too but I'd like to see it grow a bit. In our context 20-30 folks would be ideal I think. If we had 150 people, I'd probably start getting ulcers... ;)

Eric said...

Brian,

I hope you are able to grow. I think you are right - 20 to 30 sounds nice.