In Praise of Smaller Churches
Nearly half of all FIEC churches have 35 or fewer members. It may seem that these smaller fellowships are failing but in fact many are healthy and thriving.
Are you a half-empty or a half-full glass type of person?
Maybe it depends on the situation or circumstances you are in; that’s certainly been true for me over the years.
I was a management accountant, so perhaps my natural instinct would be to be a half-empty type of person (not wishing to caricature all accountants). I am sure the sales managers where I worked in secular employment would say that at times the glass seemed to be barely a quarter full as they heard my sceptical responses to their sales teams’ forecasts.
However, I trust that when it comes to the gospel, I have a far more positive outlook!
Thriving smaller churches
Nearly half of all churches affiliated to FIEC have 35 or fewer members. We call these our smaller churches.
At this point, it would be easy to throw our arms up in despair and suggest that these 300 churches are plodding along at best and certainly not thriving and vibrant. Worse than that, maybe they will struggle to stay open long term and may even be heading towards closure already.
Now, I am sure there are some churches in that category, but it would be wrong to draw such a sweeping conclusion.
Many of these smaller fellowships are thriving, vibrant local churches that are shining brightly for the gospel in their communities. They are full of believers who seek to model Jesus, share the good news of the gospel, and love and encourage each other.
Many, praise the Lord, are seeing numerical growth. This might be through conversions (although that isn’t to suggest that a gospel church that is not seeing conversions is unhealthy) or because they are blessed by believers who have moved into the area and joined them rather than driving to a larger church further away.
Precious to the Lord
As we praise the Lord for all the Bible-believing, Jesus modelling, gospel sharing churches of hundreds, so we should do the same for the Bible-believing, Jesus modelling, gospel sharing churches of a dozen faithful believers.
Of course, the range of gifts and the ability to put them into practice will vary hugely, but both larger and smaller churches can be healthy as they seek to model Jesus, encourage and support each other, pray together, and share the gospel in their location and circumstances.
Let us not forget that all true gospel churches are precious to the Lord Jesus, the head of every church, and let us make sure we treat them likewise.
Let’s be gospel-hearted, willing to help and support each other as we are able and have the opportunity.
If you serve in a larger church, maybe you could look for a smaller church nearby to connect with for mutual support? It’s not about implying they could do better (as those of a particular generation will remember reading in their annual school reports) or that you have all the answers (you may have the answers for a larger church, but maybe not for a smaller church).
Rather it’s about encouraging them and supporting them to seize the opportunities that the Lord has given them, or to help them out shorter term – for example, if their only musician moves on.
Perhaps it’s simply to let me know (you can do so through our contact form) that as a larger church leadership, you have a heart for smaller churches and would be willing to help if the need and opportunity to do so arose. What an encouragement that would be.
If you serve in a smaller church, be encouraged that the Lord has chosen you for that local fellowship (it’s where He wants you to be).
Please don’t be tempted to think like a large church (you’re not), or long to be one (that may not be the Lord’s calling for the church). Think like a smaller church that is striving to be spiritually healthy and therefore to be a shining light for the gospel. After all, that might just be God’s calling for you and the people you serve with.
Remember that FIEC is a family of Independent churches – large, medium, and small – who are all seeking to reach our nation for the glory and honour of Christ. We can do this more effectively when we work together.