Should Churches Be Large?

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…” Matthew 13:31

Christians admire mega churches and corporation-sized Christian non-profits. They have amazing capacity to take on large projects and to deliver the goods. Both have a large capacity for innovation and setting trends, and they can create specialized ministries for special audiences.

Smaller churches often admire and try to copy churches that attract thousands of worshippers, hoping to experience similar success. The desire for numerical growth often takes its cue from modern capitalism than it does the Gospel.


The Mulberry Tree, Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)

This is not to say that a declining church that has lost its passion is okay. A church steeped in tradition that has plateaued in membership is not okay. These are not good examples of small. Jesus has called us to bear fruit (John 15:16).

But in another sense Jesus did say, “Small is great.” He often talked about the kingdom of God in terms of small things. Consider just a few comparisons:

  • The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which “is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree.” (Matthew 13:32).
  • The kingdom of God is like yeast “that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Luke 13:21).
  • God is like a shepherd who goes after one lost sheep when 99 percent of his flock is safe. (Luke 15:3-7).

What do Jesus’ words about small things say to churches?

The comparison to the mustard seed that grows into a great bush teaches us about small beginnings that turn into great blessings. The woman’s dough teaches us that great ministries often have hidden beginnings. The shepherds’ looking for the lost sheep teaches us that true joy is found in the rescue of the one.

God does not want a marketing plan. God does not hold media events. There are no flashbulbs going off when God begins to work. God is more concerned about the one than the large crowd. God wants to begin in a small, hidden way, because God is full of surprises.

What doesn’t start small doesn’t start at all. Churches and ministries start small, but their blessings can become great in the lives of those they minister to. If the church is faithful in doing the small things, they will ultimately produce big blessings to the world. That’s how the kingdom of God works.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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1 Response to Should Churches Be Large?

  1. Pingback: Should Churches Be Large? - HUNTINGTOWN UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

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