Is Bigger Better?

This is a topic that comes up a lot when people discuss churches. Are bigger churches better or worse than smaller churches? Is quality more important than quantity? Do size and quality correlate?

There is an awesome movement in church planting right now that emphasizes a "house church" model. The idea here is focusing on smaller groups of people with more intimate relationships. There is a lot to be gained by this, and I think it's awesome. And there are many variations on this model as well. Our church plant Ethnos is an incredible example of a hybrid of this model, where the focus is on home groups as the primary pathway into their larger gatherings. I get really excited by this type of ministry. And there have been hundreds of new churches started up all over the country in the last several years with similar types of house church ministry models. And of course there are any number of books on the subject as well.

But I see a problem developing among young church leaders (of which I am one!). The problem is that we tend to see our own particular model of ministry as the best, and as visionaries and leaders we talk a lot about why the way we want to do things is better than the way others do them. This is horribly arrogant and does a lot of damage to existing churches and ministries.

I can't count the number of times I have heard young ministry leaders speak with disdain about large churches like Saddleback or Willow Creek, or even local churches like Beaverton Christian or New Hope. We laugh about how out of touch their ministries are. We use terms like "modern" or "mega" as an insult. We belittle their commitment to discipleship and mentoring. We mock their music and their teaching styles. And all because we think the way we are doing things is better. It seems like the only way we know how to show the value of what we are doing is by denigrating the value of what others are doing or have done.

It seems silly to me. It's like arguing over music style or the color of the church carpet. There is no right or wrong when it comes to church model or size. How can it be wrong for a church to be 10 people or 10,000 people?? How can it be wrong for a church that is 10 people to want to be 100, or a church that is 100 to want to be 1000?

Well, one problem is if the motivation of a church leader is impure. If church leaders are motivated to grow their church for selfish reasons (pride, glory of self, etc.), then that is a problem.

But here's my beef. As leaders we sometimes think we are able to judge another leader's heart on these issues. When we see a church leader who is passionate about growing their church, we question that leader's motivation. I think deep down we assume that there can be no pure motivations for wanting a church to grow, that if we want our church to grow it is because we are seeking our own glory. First of all, it is wrong to think that there can't be pure motives for seeking church growth, or that church growth inevitably leads to bad things like consumerism or watered down ministry or less intensive discipleship. Not all big churches are bad... and not all small churches are good. That's obvious. Second, its wrong for us to judge another person's heart (unless we want to be judged!). And of course we all know this is wrong, so no one admits to questioning another's motives, but that's really what it boils down to.

If Christ is being preached, then it is not up to us to judge a church leader's heart and motives on this issue.

"But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice" Philippians 1:19

So small church people need to quit bashing large church people. And large church people need to quit looking down on small church people. We're not right or wrong, we're just different. Just be glad and rejoice that Christ is being preached, and let's focus on that TOGETHER instead of picking at each other about whose church model is superior.


Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church

>sent via blackberry

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