Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Small Church Life

Over the past several years, I have heard a very one-sided diatribe against small churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. In some of my seminary classes I heard professors urging students to avoid “taking” established churches, and instead seek to plant new ones. “Established churches are full of a bunch of old people who are set in their ways—it’s a whole lot easier to build a new church the way you want it than have to deal with a bunch of stodgy old ladies.”—not a direct quote, but a continual refrain nonetheless. This is a more direct quote: “Most of those old churches just need to die anyway.”

While I would not accuse anyone in the current leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention of holding to those disparaging views, I will say that there is a tremendous bias toward the historical anomaly of mega-churches. Whether intentional or not, much denominational communication (including the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Interim Report) leaves the impression that a handful of “significant” churches must rescue our convention from the malaise left to us by small churches. The common caricature of the small church is this: old, dead, unwilling to change, antiquated, ingrown, self-centered and unevangelistic. I want to use the next few posts to paint a different picture.


  • Bill Whitt says:
    March 9, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    I look forward to reading the posts coming up. Too often, the stereotype you mentioned is exactly true... I, for one, have often wondered why we need a church on every corner. With so many small churches (and hence, small budgets), they're each barely getting by and can't afford to pay a pastor well. So they end up with anemic programs and under-qualified leaders. To me, it looks as if it would be smarter if they'd put their differences aside, pool their resources together and make a real difference. But the reason they stay separate (and small) is that they want their personal preferences and comfort. At least, that's how it looks to an outsider like me...

  • Jim Drake says:
    March 10, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    Sadly, we see that all too often. Many small churches are formed by splits off of existing churches. It is very obvious that many of the churches we see (especially in our area) are ingrown and ungodly. However, I don't believe that is the case for the majority of small churches. In the context of current discussions within the SBC, language is being used that indicates Kingdom work is best accomplished at the "corporate" level, following their mega-church models. Througout this series of posts, I intend to show that isn't necessarily the case--first anecdotally, then empirically.

    BTW--when I speak of "small" churches, from the perspective of the members of the SBC Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, all WV SBC churches are small churches (less than 700 average attendance).

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