megaI visited a local megachurch recently.  My friend described it as, “You know, one of those big-box churches with one-word names, super-loud music, huge video screens, and long sermons.”  Currently, 1300 U.S. congregations qualify as megachurches, averaging more than 2000 in weekly attendance. The one I visited has more parking-lot volunteers than my church has members.

I’ll say one thing for megachurches: they can afford quality.  The sermon was both entertaining and insightful, the super-loud music flawless (I declined the earplugs that were considerately offered at the welcome booth), and those parking volunteers got us in and out in record time.

Yet the majority of Americans, like me, still attend churches with less than 200 members.  We show up on Sundays to hear less entertaining sermons and less professional music—though we have no trouble finding a parking place.  Why?  Smaller towns don’t have the option of megachurches, of course, and big crowds make some people nervous.  I found one more reason when I came across this paradoxical observation in G. K. Chesterton’s book Heretics:

The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world…. The reason is obvious.  In a large community we can choose our companions.  In a small community our companions are chosen for us.

Precisely!  Given a choice, I tend to hang out with folks like me: people who have college degrees, drink dark roast coffee, listen to classical music, and buy their cars based on EPA gas mileage ratings.  Yet after a while I get bored with people like me.  Smaller groups (and smaller churches) force me to rub shoulders with everybody else.

Henri Nouwen defines “community” as the place where the person you least want to live with always lives.  Often we surround ourselves with the people we most want to live with, which forms a club or a clique, not a community.  Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community.

Multi-Ethnic Group of People and Church ConceptsThe Christian church was the first institution in history to bring together on equal footing Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free.  The Apostle Paul waxed eloquent on this “mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God.”  By forming a community out of diverse members, Paul said, we have the opportunity to capture the attention of the world and even the supernatural world beyond.  (Ephesians 3:9-10)

In some ways the church has sadly failed in this assignment.  (Yes, Billy Graham, 11 o’clock Sunday is still the most segregated hour in America.)  But even monochrome churches show diversity in age, education, and economic class.  Church is the one place I visit that brings together generations: infants still held at their mothers’ breasts, children who squirm and giggle at all the wrong times, responsible adults who know how to act appropriately at all times, and senior citizens who may drift asleep if the preacher drones on too long.

I know one megachurch that tries to seat people based on their commonality: senior citizens down front where they can hear better, single adults over there where they can meet each other, families with young children in the back where they can exit quickly if the kids make noise.  That strikes me as all wrong.  I deliberately seek a congregation comprising people not like me, and I find such people less avoidable in smaller churches.

Chesterton’s insight about small communities appears in a chapter on “The Institution of the Family,” which gives a whole new slant on family values.  “The common defence of the family,” he writes, “is that, amid the stress and fickleness of life it is peaceful, pleasant, and at one.  But there is another defence of the family which is possible, and to me evident; this defence is that the family is not peaceful and not pleasant and not at one.”

The smallest units in society, families offer an ideal laboratory in which to test out Chesterton’s principle that “the smaller the community, the larger the world.”  Reflecting on my own family’s reunions, I must agree that the institution of the family forces me into close contact with characters I would otherwise avoid.  I have no choice about such encounters; we share a gene pool.

Community with Diverse and Multi-ethnic PeopleSeveral of my family members have served stints in prison.  Some carry on feuds that go back generations.  A few spin elaborate tales to cover up unwed pregnancies.  Geographically, my family extends from Philadelphia to San Jose to Australia.  It includes a drug addict and a professional football player with an estranged gay son, a Ph.D. in Philosophy as well as several who never graduated from high school.  Methodists, Church of Christ, Unitarian/Universalists, Independent Baptists, atheists─they all come together at our reunions.

I have learned more about grace, forgiveness, diversity─and, yes, social deviance─from my family than from all the theology books I have read.  Chesterton’s point, exactly.  Troublesome issues like divorce and homosexuality take on a different cast when you confront them not in a state legislature but at a family reunion.

Those Christians who trumpet “family values” need to make clear that we are not proposing a lobotomized society of Stepford wives and their offspring.  We recognize that families consist of imperfect human beings.  We simply contend that the family, the smallest social unit, represents a good place to confront those imperfections.

Some commentators have attacked the entire institution, blaming society’s problems on the dysfunctions of the family.  Such jeremiads miss the point: family is not a perfect institution by any means but simply a place that accepts its members on a single criterion, shared DNA.  From such a tiny group we can learn the principles of true community needed in larger groups.

We have many examples of what happens when enlightened people get together and devise large institutions to improve on the family.  These social engineers want everyone to be alike, sharing common values and beliefs.  Consider extreme versions of the “politically correct” movement on university campuses.  Consider the thought police in Communist North Korea.  Making people more like they “ought to be” is the great experiment of modern times.

Any parent could tell you that making just one child more like he or she “ought to be” is a dicey proposition at best.  If the smallest unit in society has trouble reforming individuals, should we trust the largest institution, the government?  Better to work things out in small communities, where we may have less choice about our companions─but so does everyone else.

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49 responses to “Small is Large”

  1. James Conner says:

    Hi Philip,
    I have never read anything by you. To be honest, I found this article because my college is having me write a paper on it. While I do find some of your arguments to be correct, such as the smaller groups making it easier to rub elbows with people, I must disagree with most of your argument.
    I do not want to be disrespectful. I realize that you are a well studied man, and that I am just a student struggling through college. I would like to say that I have only been going to a megachurch now for four years, and before I went I was very much against megachurches. I used many of the same arguments as you when my parents started taking us there. The first thing I will say is that a church should not be the driving force to “force” you to talk to other people outside of your clique. That to me just doesn’t sound very Christ-like. Imagine if Jesus had only spent time with people like him. He never would have left Heaven. He would have never stepped out to spend time with people who didn’t have the same interests with him, and he definitely would not have died for them.
    To speak on families, I feel like your argument fights itself. I come from a family of nine kids, seven boys and two girls. My mother comes from a family of ten. My brother already has a family of five kids. If anyone knows diversity, It would be me. One uncle went to prison. Another uncle and aunt hunt big game around the world (We had wild boar from Africa as our ham last Thanksgiving). I have family in Texas, Tennessee, Michigan, Kentucky, and Florida. We all like different things, and I have learned much from them. How to shoot multiple guns, martial arts, Pilipino knife fighting, how to survive the wilderness, and plenty of other skills. If a big family has taught me so many things that most people would never know, how then would a bigger church family not be even more helpful than this?
    I see my church family much more than I do my parental family. I’ve drawn closer than ever to God thanks to my pastor (The head pastor, mind you, who stays an hour after church to talk to anyone who wants to talk), and the other church members. I’ve also learned wood and leather working, thanks to some elderly men who have taken me under their wing, and how to play the banjo thanks to a musician at my church.
    Maybe it is just my church. I cannot speak for the majority of megachurches out there. However, I feel as if articles such as this stir up animosity towards megachurches, which is only further shown by the majority of these comments I have read. Some of them are downright hateful! And these are supposed Christians writing to you!
    I would like once again to express that I have no disrespect for you. I just disagree with you on this one subject. Now, I need to go write my paper, but I hope you see this, and God bless you and be with you.
    James Conner

    • Philip Yancey says:

      Thank you for this most thoughtful reply. In many ways, we’re expressing different matters of taste, not discussing a right-or-wrong isue. I certainly miss the “quality control” that megachurches offer, and am very impressed by the professionalism and biblically-based sermons I’ve heard at megachurches, not to mention the music. I certainly didn’t want to stir up animosity–rather, to help discouraged smaller churches realize they have a role to play as well. They’re the ones who tend to feel beleagured, with a minority complex. –Philip

  2. Gabriel says:

    Great article! I just read it here in the Dom. Republic this morning and it really got me thinking about my personal search for the right Christian community. Thanks!

    • Des Morgan says:

      Community is already there. We don’t have to search for it unless we are searching for what Philip is indicating we should be careful not to join. Your neighbour is your community.

  3. Tracy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your insight on community! What an eye-opener to me! I must thank God for my family! Thanks Philip! I will re-read this post over & over again to remind myself what it is to be in a community.

  4. Jim says:

    Megachurches have their place–and they are attracting many who would otherwise go unchurched. Some prefer the smaller, or medium-sized, church. Some prefer stained-glass windows. Some prefer hymn-singing and liturgy. Some prefer to park where they please and not be herded. It still ultimately comes down to the two great commandments and the great commission to love God, serve neighbor, and make disciples.

    BTW – I very much like your words/insights on community.

    • Des Morgan says:

      I just wonder if we are wanting people ‘churched’. One of the greatest challenges we face is to ‘unchurch’ people i.e. for them to understand that what happens in a ‘church service’ has for the most part very little to do with what Jesus came to bring about. He came to gather people in two’s and three’s where he is in the midst of them. We do not have a shortage of ‘church’ people but there seems to be a shortage of people who are are prepared to give their all to help their neighbour and identify with those who are are different.

  5. Jess says:

    Yes! Families are so stressful! You can’t choose them, you can’t change them otherwise that ends up in argument, and you have to love them because they are family. But I guess that’s how you learn to love, especially those at your workplace or in my case university where I “choose” my friends and who I want to talk to that day. It’s hard to choose to love and be civil with family through so many things, so it’ll take a lot more effort to love and be civil with annoying people at school, it’s time to really dig deep…

  6. Gustavo says:

    Hi Philip! I’m brazilian and I attend a kind of “micro-small church”… (considering the number of members that I’ve seen on comments above). On Sundays we are happy when arrive more than 20 people. The “vision” of my church is to create a lot of small churches instead of one megachurch. But… we are realizing that the most of people are choosing the megachurches. Is it a bad thing? I’m not sure. We wouldnt like to see any chair empty, obviously. It’s hard to begin a service with 5 people… (despite to know that… “two or three gathered together in my name”…).

    So… I would like to thank you for the text. You help me to understand the purpose of church (micro or mega). Thank you for your books… (sorry for my english… I would like to find your books in english to study more)

    In Christ,
    Gustavo

  7. Greg Denholm says:

    I was once walking through a local mall and saw a huge crowd gathering up ahead. I joined the masses to see what everyone was looking at. As I craned my neck and peered through a gap, I could see a busker doing his routine. I watched for a while, but he didn’t seem to be anything special. I wondered how he had managed to attract such a large throng of people. Then it hit me: he had, at some point, reached a critical mass of followers, after which many more people had joined the congregation, probably to see what the fuss was about—the same reason I had become involved. The mega-church phenomenon can work the same way. Sometimes, a church becomes ‘mega’ simply because a sufficient number of people are already part of it. The crowd itself is the drawcard.

    I also see, however, that a mega-church’s teaching can be at the heart of its appeal. Prosperity theology is generally preached more fervently in mega-churches. It plays well to the fallen human tendency toward Self, and may therefore draw a crowd. In turn, this makes a church ‘mega,’ enabling its senior leader to present himself as a case in point: ‘God prospered me, and he will prosper you too.’ If he has a dynamic personality and can sell the message convincingly, all the better.

    Mega-churches do have a place. Not all their teaching is bad; sometimes they actually preach the Gospel, and do a reasonable job of it too. Their worship music can be amazing—a beautiful, meaningful, fragrant offering to God. They have the wherewithal to put on a show—and people (including me) do love a show. What is more, they are able to provide resources for smaller churches that simply cannot be obtained any other way.

    But, like you, Philip, I prefer small. As a rabid introvert, I am less likely to feel lost and alone when there are less people around me, and I am more likely to become involved in a conversation that goes deeper than the weather or the football. Big is good for hiding; small is good for being found. Give me small any day.

    http://www.rivergate.org.au/blog

  8. Mrs K says:

    Many thanks Phillip, very insightful piece. I have a simple question that I have pondered on for years – ” How do you choose a church ?” whether mega or small, the phenomenon of why we go to the churches we go to has bothered me for years. I have heard people who say ” that church does not meet meet my needs” and it makes me wonder whether we choose a church based on whether it meets our needs or not? On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who say ” the church is not there to serve you but you are there to serve the church” – So I’m thinking, which one is it.

  9. […] Yancey’s article should be read in full here: http://philipyancey.com/small-is-large […]

  10. Nick Osborne says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve attended small and large churches, pastored small and large churches, and experienced the highs and lows of each one. However, one thing I have learned is that if it’s community that someone is seeking, then a small church is definitely the place to go. It is very easy to go to a large church and be either anonymous or exclusive – not so in a small church!

    What Chesterton said is accurate. In my experience we reflect the reality of the kingdom and often participate in the reality of the kingdom more in a small church.

  11. Annie says:

    How lovely it would be to have 200 members, let alone 2000. We have 30 and it’s a struggle, but we are the Body of Christ in this place.

  12. Anita says:

    My family is a little bit larger than yours. Mine includes people unrelated by DNA, including my husband, adopted son, and daughter-in-law. A larger definition of family might help your allegory.

  13. […] già pensando su queste cose, quando poi trovai quella citazione di Chesterton in Small is Large, di Philip Yancey. Dove dice che una chiesa più piccola è, di solito, uno strumento migliore per […]

  14. Nhiem N. says:

    The two greatest Commands are:
    Love GOD with all your Heart, Soul, and Mind.
    Love each other.
    …in that order.

    It would seem as though small groups have easier times to live that. And as a testimony to that commitment, they would grow (God gave the increase). The biggest challenge of a larger “community”, that I’ve observed in many megas, is that they start losing focus, because it’s much harder to focus, on God and become so occupied with people… if that makes sense. But many small groups have that issue as well, thus never grow.

    They would do Church-ianity rather than Christianity.

    Some say that Christ came so God can build relationship with Man, but Man sets out to build Religions. Then Men use religions to control other men. There’s some truth to that.

    It’s a lonely world and people are craving for relationships, which is part of the demand that leads to church growth. The trick in church leadership, it seems, is to lead people into a growing Relationship with God first, consistent with the order of two greatest commandments… Seek ye first the Kingdom, then all these things shall be added. Our problem is that we seek each other first.

    But I would say that if large group is so easy to keep in tune with God, then you and I would less likely to hear of Christ. Perhaps break ups and persecutions are part of God’s plan to proliferate the Gosple to better coverage in humanity, so people like me can have a chance to hear.

  15. […] thinking of this all day, I found it extraordinary to run across the Chesterton quote in Small is Large, by Philip Yancey. In which he brings out that a smaller church is generally a better tool for […]

  16. Jon norvelle says:

    I spent 35 years in large churches. Plenty of money and programs and people to meet if you wanted. Or you could hide if you wanted to. It never seemed to bother me that I never met more than ten percent of the attendees. I was friends with the lead pastor at one of them, so I never had to worry about seeing and talking with him. I never realized that it took an appointment for everyone to see a pastor at all, much less the lead pastor. I really thought I was happy and I kind of looked down on the small churches.
    Then God, in His wisdom, through some very odd circumstances led me to a small evangelical church plant. I had spent my church life up to that point at Assembly of God churches and in my state of pride, looked down on evangelical churches. It completely transformed everything about me. This church of about 50 adults and 25 kids taught me what real Community is about. This group of people taught me to love others. Everyone in this community learn to serve each other, work together, and love God together. We are led by a totally humble pAstor and his wife. They are very special people who lead by example. No one in this church goes without needed things of any kind. Worship is beautiful and we learn God’s word together. Prayer is the main focus of the church and we work, laugh, grieve, celebrate and serve together. It can get messy at times and difficult, but God has always helped us to find a way. I’m still here after 5 1/2 years and have no wish to leave. I have matured hear more in the last 5 1/2 years than the previous 20 years and a large church. We are now in the process of being joined with a Southern Baptist church. This is been an amazing move of God. We are still under 125 people at this point.
    My church is The Bridge Community Church of South San Jose ca.
    The church we are merging with is Oak Grove Baptist of South San Jose

  17. Michael says:

    Seriously?! How does a mega church has any resemblance of the “fellowships” in the New Testimate? It’s not my position to be radical, idealistic or dogmatic. Jesus said, “…make disciples of all men.” Discipleship requires relationships. thats exactly why I DO NOT GO TO CHURCH ANYMORE! Church has become an organization, made by man, run by men, for the purpose of men (women too). If you’re struggling with the Americanized “church”, join me and thousands like me at https://www.lifestream.org/

    Father’s richest blessings on you during your Journey!

    • The day when an Earthquake destroyed large, fancy Church buildings
      by Mario C Alleckna

      After hearing about the earthquake in Nepal and praying, I thought of large, fancy church buildings crumble. I began to wonder where the people would meet if their building was destroyed? Would they perhaps stop meeting? Would they frantically try to rebuild? Would they have the money? Some of these buildings and properties are worth millions. And what about the staff? Who would continue paying ministers, youth-pastors and office staff when there is no building for them to go to?
      Be the Church–Implementing the Book of Acts.
      Have we perhaps, with good intentions, taken what was meant to be a calling into ministry, and turned it into a career-choice with a degree from seminary and then a paycheque? (Jesus called, i.e. handpicked, 12 out of a crowd.) The Apostle Paul refused to get paid for sharing the Gospel. He said that he didn’t want to owe anything to anyone. Why? Likely because when someone is paid he might feel obligated to earn his keep, perhaps preaching what the people want to hear. Can you imagine a Pastor saying: “I don’t have a sermon today. Let’s just wait on the Lord and see what HE has to say to us.” Of course, right now every paid clergyman will show me the Scriptures where it says that a man should receive his living from teaching. I certainly know ALL of these Scriptures! But honestly, what did that look like in Biblical days? Did the Apostles receive a regular paycheque plus a pension plan? Did they have an office? Or did they likely receive food and lodging while teaching and preaching DAILY (not just Sundays), for a time? “Please Paul, don’t leave just yet to go to another city. Stay a while, and keep teaching us. We’ll look after your needs. You don’t need to make tents; don’t worry.”

      Let’s ask: Why is it that there is no power in the church? Here is what A. W. Tozer had to say: (Quote) “The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful adjustment to unregenerate society, they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The idea that this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of Christians. There is today no lack of Bible Teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives.”A. W. Tozer

      Indeed, where are the empowered, spirit-filled leaders today? So many teach and preach milk rather than teach and model “meat and potatoes”. Paul said that he did not come with fancy words, but rather with God’s spiritual power. And then there is a simple, likely uneducated, fisherman named Peter. About 3000 people received Christ as Lord and Saviour after he preached a basic message of repentance and the cross. Peter would not easily qualify for any position in today’s highly educated church. It certainly wasn’t Peter’s eloquent speech or a possible degree in theology that determined his success! It was rather the King’s invisible signet ring of divine authority Peter was wearing, and the spiritual anointing that flowed from his words. Here is a fact: TIMES HAVE CHANGED, but has our way of doing church? In today’s day where everyone has access to Bibles and computer Bibles, plus teachings on You Tube and TV, do we really need a full-time pastor to teach what we’ve already heard 500 times? Shouldn’t we study these things for ourselves or in home-groups? Do we perhaps need leaders who, full of the Holy Spirit, first and foremost guide us into God’s presence?! Let’s be honest, do we really desire His presence more than His presents? Has the work of the Lord become more important than the Lord of the work?
      It is in His presence where we find all we could ever want or need! And where is His presence found? In a particular building? Are we not the temple of His Spirit? In the Book of Rev. we are told to “come out of her”; i.e. the expensive, deceived, compromised, people focused and people pleasing, ear tickling, business-like institutionalized church with its organized religion!
      BE the church in your daily life, and meet with likeminded, TRUE followers of Christ in homes and other places. Every believer is gifted by the Lord to contribute. I know several musicians and ex-pastors, who are quite capable of taking turns in leading worship or teaching and preaching, but are seldom asked to contribute. We are all equal as part of the body. Give to the poor, the widows, single moms, orphans etc.! Give as the Spirit is leading. (See: “Tithing or Giving?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJBPLAAYZMQ ) Learn to hear and discern HIS voice (not your own or someone else’s). Worship is a lifestyle of loving Jesus wherever we are, and in whatever we do! Meet with likeminded folk; love Jesus with truthfulness (no games, no pretending, BE real!) and then love people; help and pray for those in need in your group of likeminded believers, your neighbourhood, your daily, normal life. Make time to pray in your closet. Alone time with Jesus is essential for your growth! Study your Bible for yourself and with friends; read His Word often! The Lord speaks to us through His Word! (Depending on paid leaders holds the danger of making people lazy in their own, personal pursuit of Christ.) And should you run into other such groups who regularly meet in homes or other in-expensive places, and decide that it would be nice to have the groups get together for a corporate time of praying, loving one-another, and worshipping Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, through song and music, pool together and rent a community hall for an evening or whenever it suits. I promise that God will be there! Imagine the amount of money saved by not constantly having to pay for a huge building with office staff etc. Running a typical, “professional” church costs a lot of money; hundreds-of-thousands per year in many cases. Orphanages could easily be build with that kind of money!
      May the Lord challenge all of us to step back and take a hard look at how far we have strayed from the example of the first church.

      “Jesus, No Greater Love” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPGA7b0sd_s
      Book: http://www.amazon.com/Awakening-Sleeping-Giant-Church-Revival/dp/1412001714/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1429716471&sr=1-1&keywords=mario+alleckna

  18. Nhiem N. says:

    I’d like to chime in from another perspective: personal growth. Lots of smaller churches that I have been to, set out on a mission to be “mega” some day. I was converted and been attending churches in the low hundreds, even through the college years but only becoming a member of a near-6000 church only in the last 6 years. This mega church was only in the low hundreds about 10 years ago! It grew.

    Speaking from my experience, a church grows simply because it gives God the control and just go “feed the hungry.” Many people and family in this USA are starving for sound teaching, sound counseling. Feed people with the Words in ways that they can understand, then the church will grow. I’m a beggar in the Word, and I’d go where there’s food. My children were tuned out in a previous smaller church, but now, they’d listen to old sermons from this mega church website before bed each night, voluntarily. those new methods of teachings have made them more in tune with the Word than ever before.

    The Church have been growing because it found ways in new technology to feed people! For the sake of newer generations, videos, music, YouTube, etc. can all be used positively to deliver the Words. And when that happens, it’s easier to connect to those who have the same need, to be fed and to feed.

    May the places that you are worshipping embrace new technologies to deliver the old trusted Word to those who seek him.

    My church is mega because it “happens to be.” I go there because I see the positive in my children, my wife, and I. If we can grow and help grow, then we’d go there. Getting along with others is secondary.

  19. Victoria says:

    Philip, I love your writings. I regularly tell people that your book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” has been one of the books (other than the Bible, of course ) that has most influenced my thinking as a Christian.
    I just love your perspective and your willingness to see the Christian life from so many different angles.
    I live in N. Ireland and I belong to one of the traditional denominations here.
    N. Ireland has many churches of many denominations. Those in the more traditional denominations are often highly suspicious and critical of those in the modern churches and fellowships, such as you describe in this article.
    I attend my local church regularly and I’m not planning on leaving it. However, I also love attending the “mega churches” and modern fellowships when I get the opportunity. My friendship circle spans all denominations and none.
    I don’t agree with everything that I see and hear when I visit these modern churches, but my church sure isn’t perfect either – we all have much that we can learn from each other.
    This is a blog post that I wrote after attending a weekend women’s conference at our N. Ireland equivalent of a “mega church” –

    https://victoriawhyte.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/passion-2015/

    • Philip Yancey says:

      Thank you for this, Victoria. I looked at your blog, and see that you are well acquainted with grief too. I’m so glad you had this day apart at Green Pastures. Now you are sharing “the God of all comfort” with someone in need, just as 2 Corinthians asks us to do. Bless you. –Philip

  20. Brian Christensen says:

    I grew up in a ~2000 member church. We now go to one that has <200 – we moved out of state. I can go to either since we all – as brothers and sisters in Christ belong to one huge mega Church. I saw that at Urbana in 84…and in Singapore visiting a small church there. Nobody looked at me and said…you go to THAT large church.

    Eph 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

    Brian

  21. Joseph Allen says:

    I like to compare the churches to the Walmart out by interstate and the department store on the town square. At one, you can be anonymous, but at the other, everyone knows you. At one, you can get what you want at very little cost, but at the other, you get what they have and it may cost you. At one, the employees would never remember you, but at the other, they would never forget you.

  22. Morgan Erin says:

    Oh my gosh. I should have read through that all a second time, I left a lot of grammatical and spelling errors. I’m so sorry.

  23. Morgan Erin says:

    “Such jeremiads miss the point: family is not a perfect institution by any means but simply a place that accepts its members on a single criterion, shared DNA. From such a tiny group we can learn the principles of true community needed in larger groups.”

    If you had ever been a fly on the wall in this house where I have at the age of 10 ran away to the city for the first time, successfully got out at 16 “for good” about a year after I found my best friend moments after she shot herself, made the mistake of thinking that forgiving them when I had my first and only child at 19 would change the way I was treated, thought of, spoken to and about….

    I got married to my best guy friend when we fell in love at 22 and is now my soon to be ex-husband in a few weeks… and thought his family was so ideal and God had finally answered my prayers for a “real” family, but when he left the truth came out about how they really felt about my daughter and I, how we were not family and never were, and although he became a horrible husband and was the one that cheated, and I cannot detail the rest of it… suffice to say he walked out after destroying me and every dream I had for the future, as if chronic pain and illness hadn’t taken its toll on me in every way possible. After a doctor botched a nerve block that caused me to develop Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome leaving me disabled, through multiple surgeries to try to correct some of the structural issues in that foot, and on crutches for 3 years, magnifying my anxiety/panic attacks and agoraphobia… he’s the good guy to his friends and family. Leaving me and everyone knowing what I was and still am going through, but believing I just dragged him down… A family I believed was accepting and loving but just did all things my birth family did behind behind more money, whiter smiles, and secrecy, and he did as well… so now at the age of 32 I am lying here, in a lot of pain both physical and emotional, and honestly crying so hard because I can’t talk about this without losing it and I have to stay as invisible as possible here. I feel so rejected by the people who brought me into this world, have begun referring to them as my “birth parents” and not family (interestingly enough my only sibling is a younger brother adopted from Korea, and although we have no real relationship he has always been just “my brother”) asked me reluctantly to move back without making any changes in the home to allow us to feel any privacy or make it seem like their offer wasn’t just an empty gesture… and it was just that. An empty gesture. I have never asked them for anything. I have never asked to come back here or asked them for money. Yet they will and have done anything and everything for my brother. These people have never accepted me. Not for who I am, not for anything. I can never remember ever feeling wanted or loved here.
    Before my husband left for good, with his encouragement I had cut them out of my life for 3 years. I had no intention of ever seeing them or speaking to them again. I broke down and I consider my contacting them as one one of the worst mistakes I have made multiple times in my life. Even my 12 year old daughter sees it.
    A very good friend of mine who has also seen the narcissistic nature and all the things they caused me throughout our childhoods to adulthood who is now a graduate of Fuller Seminary and ordained, and quite honestly my moral compass most times -told me to read “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” And I had finally done so, finishing several weeks before he walked out. I do not have the words to describe how much it hurt and how confused I was that I had finally understood a concept that had long evaded me because of my anger and bitterness and quietly applied it to my life and then suddenly here I am with no in-laws, no family, and no husband. No money, no job, and only a handful of collrge classes after supporting my husband through a bachelor’s, master’s, and 3 years of research in physics… then changed his mind wanted to become a teacher, then decided to move us 4 hours away to go work at the USPTO and went to GW for a law degree. I know this is a huge amount of information but it all comes full circle, coming back to the paragraph I quoted at the start. The point being that we are not accepted. I have long been a tool simply used by my birth mother to gain sympathy from others. No one listens when I speak or write letters about how I feel when certain things happen, I have been through more hours of therapy than I can count and no matter how much or how hard I pray, I feel like I will never be accepted, I will never be pushed apart. There are photographs of my brother and them all over the house and any one I have found of me are from only when I was very little and are buried under the junk and dust in this house.
    I do not exist unless I am in the way, money is wanted from me, or I am being yelled at. Often times taking the fall for my daughter so she isn’t lectured.
    You have to realize that DNA is not a winning ticket for the acceptance of your part in a family. They just never will. My adopted brother is their “real” child (to use a term I do not really condone regarding adopted children, but its irony seemed fitting). No one is proud of the failed artist who’s life is “ruined”. The daughter that had run away, found herself pregnant and dumped at 19 and randomly shunned or befriended at a large church on a path desiring to become a mega church. There is no pride in her failed marriage and the losses endured. There is no one that comes to tell my daughter and I that Sunday dinner is ready, are we eating with them?
    There is no acceptance. The only acceptance is mine; that it is what it is and that it hurts and I don’t think forgiveness no matter how many times it is silently given will ever be able to make the sadness and the hurt go away. The only acceptance is that rejection and derision are a part of the fabric of my life that cannot be uncover or cut away because it has been woven along all the threads since the day I was born.

  24. The day when an Earthquake destroyed large, fancy Church buildings
    by Mario C Alleckna

    After hearing about the earthquake in Nepal and praying, I thought of large, fancy church buildings crumble. I began to wonder where the people would meet if their building was destroyed? Would they perhaps stop meeting? Would they frantically try to rebuild? Would they have the money? Some of these buildings and properties are worth millions. And what about the staff? Who would continue paying ministers, youth-pastors and office staff when there is no building for them to go to?
    Be the Church–Implementing the Book of Acts.
    Have we perhaps, with good intentions, taken what was meant to be a calling into ministry, and turned it into a career-choice with a degree from seminary and then a paycheque? (Jesus called, i.e. handpicked, 12 out of a crowd.) The Apostle Paul refused to get paid for sharing the Gospel. He said that he didn’t want to owe anything to anyone. Why? Likely because when someone is paid he might feel obligated to earn his keep, perhaps preaching what the people want to hear. Can you imagine a Pastor saying: “I don’t have a sermon today. Let’s just wait on the Lord and see what HE has to say to us.” Of course, right now every paid clergyman will show me the Scriptures where it says that a man should receive his living from teaching. I certainly know ALL of these Scriptures! But honestly, what did that look like in Biblical days? Did the Apostles receive a regular paycheque plus a pension plan? Did they have an office? Or did they likely receive food and lodging while teaching and preaching DAILY (not just Sundays), for a time? “Please Paul, don’t leave just yet to go to another city. Stay a while, and keep teaching us. We’ll look after your needs. You don’t need to make tents; don’t worry.”

    Let’s ask: Why is it that there is no power in the church? Here is what A. W. Tozer had to say: (Quote) “The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful adjustment to unregenerate society, they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The idea that this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of Christians. There is today no lack of Bible Teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives.”A. W. Tozer

    Indeed, where are the empowered, spirit-filled leaders today? So many teach and preach milk rather than teach and model “meat and potatoes”. Paul said that he did not come with fancy words, but rather with God’s spiritual power. And then there is a simple, likely uneducated, fisherman named Peter. About 3000 people received Christ as Lord and Saviour after he preached a basic message of repentance and the cross. Peter would not easily qualify for any position in today’s highly educated church. It certainly wasn’t Peter’s eloquent speech or a possible degree in theology that determined his success! It was rather the King’s invisible signet ring of divine authority Peter was wearing, and the spiritual anointing that flowed from his words. Here is a fact: TIMES HAVE CHANGED, but has our way of doing church? In today’s day where everyone has access to Bibles and computer Bibles, plus teachings on You Tube and TV, do we really need a full-time pastor to teach what we’ve already heard 500 times? Shouldn’t we study these things for ourselves or in home-groups? Do we perhaps need leaders who, full of the Holy Spirit, first and foremost guide us into God’s presence?! Let’s be honest, do we really desire His presence more than His presents? Has the work of the Lord become more important than the Lord of the work?
    It is in His presence where we find all we could ever want or need! And where is His presence found? In a particular building? Are we not the temple of His Spirit? In the Book of Rev. we are told to “come out of her”; i.e. the expensive, deceived, compromised, people focused and people pleasing, ear tickling, business-like institutionalized church with its organized religion!
    BE the church in your daily life, and meet with likeminded, TRUE followers of Christ in homes and other places. Every believer is gifted by the Lord to contribute. I know several musicians and ex-pastors, who are quite capable of taking turns in leading worship or teaching and preaching, but are seldom asked to contribute. We are all equal as part of the body. Give to the poor, the widows, single moms, orphans etc.! Give as the Spirit is leading. (See: “Tithing or Giving?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJBPLAAYZMQ ) Learn to hear and discern HIS voice (not your own or someone else’s). Worship is a lifestyle of loving Jesus wherever we are, and in whatever we do! Meet with likeminded folk; love Jesus with truthfulness (no games, no pretending, BE real!) and then love people; help and pray for those in need in your group of likeminded believers, your neighbourhood, your daily, normal life. Make time to pray in your closet. Alone time with Jesus is essential for your growth! Study your Bible for yourself and with friends; read His Word often! The Lord speaks to us through His Word! (Depending on paid leaders holds the danger of making people lazy in their own, personal pursuit of Christ.) And should you run into other such groups who regularly meet in homes or other in-expensive places, and decide that it would be nice to have the groups get together for a corporate time of praying, loving one-another, and worshipping Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, through song and music, pool together and rent a community hall for an evening or whenever it suits. I promise that God will be there! Imagine the amount of money saved by not constantly having to pay for a huge building with office staff etc. Running a typical, “professional” church costs a lot of money; hundreds-of-thousands per year in many cases. Orphanages could easily be build with that kind of money!
    May the Lord challenge all of us to step back and take a hard look at how far we have strayed from the example of the first church.

    “Jesus, No Greater Love” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPGA7b0sd_s
    Book: http://www.amazon.com/Awakening-Sleeping-Giant-Church-Revival/dp/1412001714/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1429716471&sr=1-1&keywords=mario+alleckna

  25. Phil Bickel says:

    In the book “Joy Starts Here”, psychologist E. James Wilder urges us to form groups that include both the weak and the strong, because true community is only possible in such a setting. He posits that in social interactions we are always playing one of three roles (alternating between them to suit our need or mood): a) Predator – seeking weaknesses in others to gain advantage over them; b) Protector – looking for weaknesses in others to protect them from predators; or c) Possum – keeping a low profile to avoid the attacks of predators. Jesus was the greatest protector ever, as He defended possums (the woman caught in adultery) and invited predators (Zacchaeus) to follow Him. We are called to do the same. It is difficult to be a protector, if you surround yourself with people like you and avoid possums and predators.
    One other thing. If you belong to (or wish to form) a house church or home group, a resource for free materials and encouragement is awakeusnow.org.

  26. I like smaller churches as well, since the mega church makes me feel lost and anonymous. We’ve been put into small home groups with people I didn’t have anything in common with and ended up close friends with, a good thing for someone who prefers to choose who she hangs out with. Good to be reminded that God knows what He’s doing and who He brings into our lives! But in the end, you have to ask yourself, Where does God want me?, and go there. That’s where the blessing is.

  27. Tom says:

    For me the argument is silly…”my church is better than yours”, or “my church is smaller than yours”. Sunday church is for worship….it really isn’t meant to be a substitute for bible study, social interaction, local ministries, support groups etc., it is a “group” worship exercise. Even Jesus preached to over 5,000. My church is quite large, but there are many small group activities that allow one to be as intimate or reserved as the choose. Freedom to choose a bible study, local ministry, mentoring, singing, community outreach, etc.. I just love my “mega” church because I can find whatever I’m looking for and have the opportunity to be engaged in a variety of worship, community and social event that attempt to fulfill my needs or desires at that time. For me, the “mega” side of things are only apparent at the worship services. I actually find it freeing that I don’t know everyone at the service and can be somewhat anonymous, yet I can walk down the hall and get involved in almost any type of intimate or small ministry that one can imagine.

    • Yes, Jesus preached to 5000, but NOT in a million dollar building with a $75,000 sound system!

      Blessings,
      Mario

    • Ian Martin says:

      For me, I think the article is more about community than mega church … yes Jesus preached to 5000 and more. But He did community with just a few. He said to go and make disciples … I’m not a critic of the Mega Church or the Smaller Church, I just find that whether I belong to one or the other the process of discipleship still takes place in smaller groups where you can invest into people through living in community and that is where you have all shapes and sizes, where you sometimes need longsuffering.

  28. Ken Wiens says:

    We (my family) attend a church with maybe 60 members tops. It is small and we love it. Our pastor is a young man about 32 years old. He is married and has four small children. He lives what he preaches and teaches.

    We love small and simple. That is the church we are members of.

  29. David Rupert says:

    There is room for both in the kingdom. I imagine when he disciples were adding to their number daily that the intimacy was often lost in the growth.

    I know the older I get the .ire I long for simplicity.

  30. Neil Gussman says:

    Philip–I deployed to Camp Adder, Iraq in 2009-10. When I could attend Church, I went to the Catholic service, even though I attend a small Presbyterian Church here in the US. The Protestant Chaplains used video screens for bouncing ball lyrics during the hymns and sometimes homey imagines.
    The Priest just preached. Faith comes by hearing, entertainment comes by video.
    Attendance was better for the Catholic service, but both were small. The 80th percentile age of the Army is 24. The soldiers who attended Chapel tended to be over 40 so there weren’t many of us.
    Our church has real musicians, no video and I love that.

  31. Caroline says:

    Some large churches do have a problem with being too showy – go to one of the larger churches in Vegas and you see a Strip level of production.

    However, there are issues with churches of small sizes, both non denom and traditional. There are just as much unGodly decisions and unBiblical teachings going on in the local Baptist and Methodist churches with memberships in the 100s instead of the 1,000s. Gossip, arrogance, pride and selfishness can be found in every zip code, church size and denomination.

    As church members (attenders) we all need to pray for our church leadership.

  32. Justin Jackson says:

    I love the heart of this article, the need for diversity. We are so much better, and grow so much more, when we live in community with those different from us.

    While I logically agree that megachurches, with their greater population size, allow people the opportunity to pick and choose who they relate to, the mega-church I attend is constantly placing me with people I might never meet otherwise.

    Just last night at a men’s event I sat at a table with guys older and younger than me, single and married, long-time believers and people new to their faith, blue collar, white collar, an acrobat, a three-time divorcee and a retired campground host. Pretty much every race was represented in the room and distributed across the tables with complete randomness.

    In our case God has use a big church to create smaller communities of great diversity. People can choose to be anonymous in my church, but when they opt into community they find it.

    • rachel says:

      Thank you for sharing an actual experience of someone who attends a mega church, and your gracious response. I do like the points in the article but sad about the assumptions made, you can not know what any church is really like unless you have belonged rather than visited.

      • Philip Yancey says:

        I couldn’t agree more. And actually I attended an almost-megachurch (1700) for some years. The key is finding a community of diversity within whatever group; it just may take a bit more work in a megachurch –Philip

        • Mike Allen says:

          I guess that God leads us to the right Church where we can be fruitful. Since we “Got outof the boat” and moved to bigger premises, then set up services to the poor such as food banks and debt counselling, the Church has grown to fill where we now are. People have stepped up to serve in excellent ways, and our fun days and reputation for helping our Community has opened doors we could not have imagined. Our services have doubled in attendance from 200 to 400 and many people have come to know Jesus.

          Only by depending utterly on Jesus instead of ourselves was this even possible

          Although we reach out to help Churches in Zambia and India we have also helped our local Baptist Church and it’s new Pastor so there are now two rapidly growingChurches in town. Many members moved to the Baptist Church in the process but we kept on growing anyway.

          I would like us to plant more churches in nearby towns as prophesied over us and in God’s time I trust we will.

          The one lesson for us has been that the more we give away, the richer the harvest.

  33. Don McBride says:

    Thanks so much for reposting this. I had seen it someplace else once and wanted to save it, but lost it. I thoroughly enjoy your ability to look at different perspectives, and your honesty with yourself. You have happily challenged me with many of your writings.

  34. Susan Barber says:

    We are attending a very small church at this time. We have been to all of the different styles and sizes and the large church to me is a turn off. It becomes more like a show and not about the Lord. We also find that this small church is in the community never ran and left it they have been there for 30 yrs serving the poor and God is there. It doesn’t have the best sound but it has good hearts and the truth the speak from the Bible imagine that. Yes I’m a bit cynical have been through a lot of the churches and about gave up; and we feel the pull to go where we now are. I am thankful for the Ragamuffin church it is where we belong. I hope others that have been on a journey of many years won’t give up and know there are some out there we have had seasons of not going to church and then try leave and give it time and here we are now. God is good and we know that and man is messed up and so we have a realistic thought that there isn’t a perfect church but we want the truth; praying and seeking God. That is rare so sad to see what man has done.

  35. Shane says:

    Hi Philip … your post resonates as it contends, and rightly so, that peace (or rather unruffled feathers/unrocked boats) is not meant to be an end goal in itself. If we pursue an avoidance of complications, of ‘uncomfort’, we lose the blessing of growth, as painful as it may be. As trees strain against gravity and wind to truly gain strength, or as butterflies emerging from cocoons must strain to redistribute body fluids, else emerging deformed and flightless, we humans who worship the path of least resistance must wait, and breathe, and allow the tensions and conflict of walking an incongruent life shape us. Not all conflict is necessary of course, but the inclination to avoid anything or anyone different to us, in the end, weakens us, as our resolve is never tested, our intellectual/spiritual/moral muscles never grown.

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