When Bigger isn't Better
A popular commercial in the U.S. features a man sitting at a table with young children, asking, “Which is better, bigger or smaller?” The kids all respond by yelling, “Bigger!”
However, when it comes to church gathering sizes, the answer might be “Smaller”, at least where discipleship is concerned.
When the New Testament church gathered, it was generally in homes and thus in small groups. The relatively small number of people made it possible for each person to participate actively in ways which are impossible in a large gathering.
1 Corinthians 14:26 says,
When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up
The early church’s meetings were highly interactive. This allowed believers to share with others what God was teaching and to practice their spiritual gifts. This led to a healthy, vital church (“so that the church may be built up”).
Large crowds gathered for worship are exciting in many ways. But by their nature they are “one-way” venues; communication flows from the front to the crowd. Discipleship and personal ministry can be facilitated better in a small gathering.
Christ-follower: if your main goal is to become like Jesus, doesn’t it make sense to build small group into your schedule? Sure it takes time and effort to get there, but the pay-off is well worth it. It will help you become like Jesus and learn to love others in a way that doesn’t happen in a weekend service.
Church leaders: If the mission of your church is to make disciples, then doesn’t it make sense to prioritize the environment that is most effective at doing that?
Putting small cell groups at the core of your church’s ministry can result in stronger disciples. It might be tempting to think that offering a wide variety of ministry programs and options will mean “something for everyone”. But actually, what everyone needs is the opportunity to develop spiritually in an environment where they can participate actively in the ministry. Don’t allow other well-meaning programs to crowd that out. Keep the main thing the main thing, then the church will be built up.