Thursday, May 26, 2011

Love Wins and Friendship

Last night at Trinity Church in Boston Rob Bell responded to a question about how an Episcopal parish could become a mega-church. Rob's first point was that size isn't the issue and that small churches are not less important than big ones. His second point was that what draws people to a church is often friendship with one of its members. He told us that he had once asked another pastor who wanted his church to grow if he had friends who weren't members of the church. The pastor didn't. Bell said that he - and others at Mars Hill Bible Church - try to make lots of friends in the community and that those friendships are often what draw people to Mars Hill. In the Happening and Cursillo movements this idea is often expressed as "Make a friend. Be a friend. Bring a friend to Christ."

I think friendship is important, although I sometimes worry that we might see our friendships with those outside the church as purely instrumental, as only for the purpose of increasing church membership. Friends are important, simply as friends, and not as prospects for membership.


Suzanne said...

Sigh. Why do we always think it's better to be big? Small churches can be and do things that large churches can't, like knowing instantly that someone is new and being able to offer a more intimate hospitality. In the Diocese of Masaschusetts' small church webinars, we're continually discovering things that small churches excel at that it would be difficult, or even impossible, for a mega-church to do and be.

By the same token, being big does not mean a church does more. A friend of mine just got back from a mission conference in Louisville, and reported that the pastor of a congregation of 800 explained that of course they only had four mission program -- they were too small to have more! bMy friend's 50 member church counts 38, ranging from one-person to nearly the entire congregation! You don't have to be big to have a big impact on your community.

Growth is great, if it's for the right reasons. If it's just so we can pay the bills and have more people to help mow the lawn, then it's of little value. Growth isn't the goal, it's the result. And there is nothing at all wrong with being small! The Holy Spirit started the church with just 11 members!

Anonymous said...

So the past 40 years have been just great for Mainline Protestantism? That the fact that, current membership trends continuing, you'll be down to about 1000 members by 2050 is great by you?
Let's hope your prayers are answered.