How big is the ideal church?
Have you ever debated that question with a friend? Have you ever considered it yourself? There are two schools of thought that I've heard a lot: 1) A big church is better because you have more people who can get more stuff done and help each other better, or 2) A small church is better because everyone knows everyone else. So which is better? Biblically, there's no answer given. And as I read through the book of Acts, I think I know why God's Spirit is not concerned much with big churches vs. small churches.
Because the Lord is concerned that his churches are growing.
As you look at the book of Acts, there are a few times when church membership numbers are given (Acts 2:41, 4:4). But in searching for those, you'll find plenty more references to how much the disciples were growing. They grew in number, they increased in boldness, they bolstered their fellowship with each other, they expanded their generosity, they pushed out the borders of their influence, and they enhanced their reputation in the community. They were growing in so many positive ways.
Growth is an indicator of healthy churches in all of time. Now please don't misunderstand: all growth requires change, but not all change is growth (we'll discuss that more in future writings). But churches that are not growing are stagnant or in decline. On the other hand, when a church's leaders and members are filled with God's Spirit and following his word, we are bound to be growing in him, and that will always be reflected in our numbers, our fellowship, our influence, our generosity, and our evangelism.
So I pray that each of us has a mindset that we want to foster an environment of growth in this church family. I pray that we all see the glory which that brings to God when his people are growing up into his image. And I pray that whether we are a small church or big church, we will always be a growing church as we worship and serve him.
- Dan Lankford, minister
"As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD'S house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, 'For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.'" (2 Chronicles 7:1-3, ESV)
I love that passage. It brings Israel an assurance that God's presence was among them and with them. In a way that noone living on that day could have ever witnessed before, God's presence physically appeared before them like he had done during the time of the Exodus. They saw and understood the glory of God, and they responded just like they should have: with worship.
Worship is all too easy to undervalue or to distort from its authentic purpose. It's too easy to lose sight of Who it's for and what its purpose is. It's easy to think that if we were present at a spectacle like the one from 2 Chronicles, then we would worhsip with minds and hearts lifted to a higher plane of spirituality.
But where is our faith when we think that way? Do we believe that God is with us when our churches assemble? Do we trust, even if we can't see it, that his people are his temple and that his temple is filled with his glory? Do we properly consider that he has chosen us from among all the nations and made us a people of his own special possession? Do we worship him authentically, even when there's no spectacle or when it feels like "there's nothing special going on"?
The people's words of worship in 2 Chronicles 7 are interesting. Because it's not that they respond to the fire and glory of YHWH by saying, "He is powerful and we are amazed at this incredible experience!" They understood that it isn't a spectacle that makes God great and worthy of worship; it's that "he is good, and his steadfast love endures forever." If that was why they worshiped him, then how much more should we proclaim his glory with passion and truth when we have seen his glory and goodness through the gift of his son?
- Dan Lankford, minister