Thursday, February 13, 2014

What makes a Church Great?

As I was reading the book of Acts, I was struck by the word “great,” in describing the early church—‘great’ power, ‘great’ grace, ‘great’ fear, and ‘great’ joy (Acts 4:33; 5:11: 8:8).  The Greek word is “mega,” a prefix used in English: megahertz, megabucks, megacorporation, and, significantly, megachurch. The words describing the early church all denote quality. Power, grace, fear, or joy are not quantifiable, very unlike the ‘great’  or mega churches of our day, quantified by their superior numbers.

Is the megachurch a sign of the times? Are they not in danger of becoming like ‘big box stores’ that attract a consumer-driven, bargain-hunting crowd, while driving small churches out of business? More importantly, are they making disciples? After all, how many sheep can a shepherd shepherd? The opportunity for making disciples has to be ‘greater’ in churches with less than 100 (60% of U.S. churches) than 10,000. And wouldn’t that make small churches “great?” To you who are pastors of small churches today, be encouraged by God's words to Zerubbabel, “Do not despise the day of small things” (Zech. 4:10). Small things can be great!


  1. Good morning Greg,
    Thank you for the connection with "great," "mega" and the significance in it not being a quantifiable expression but one of qualitative assessment.
    I think in smaller churches, there is more accountability (we miss you, we love you, God [though our church body] has a plan for you]). It is harder to be just a pew warmer in a small church, because the needs are many and the workers are few.
    I think this is why the bulk of missionaries and pastors are raised in small churches. In doing things for God and his local body, they hear the call and the voice of God.
    To be great and be a mega-church today, the mega church needs to be good at being small (examples: small group bible studies, small niche ministries). Unfortunately, the inverse of that is also true. Because the world is competitive, the small church must also be good at being big (programs, music, niche ministries, etc.), and it does not have the resources (people, money, time, things, places, ideas). It is tough saying no to many things so that a small church can be excellent at just a few. Would that both the small church and the big church could view, and more importantly act, as if they are allies rather than competitors.
    Until then, Godspeed!
    Larry Q

  2. What makes me sad, though, is that small church pastors are made to feel inferior (what's wrong with you for not growing a large church?) It's all about the organization these days, even in churches of 500-1000; it's not about the organic relationship of believers to one another. The bottom line is this: the Great Commission is to make disciples, not meet peoples' psychological needs. Hopefully, making people into Christ's disciples will take care of their emotional, intellectual, and social needs too. But Jesus said "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." That, in my view, does not appear to be the emphasis in so many American churches. Pastors know people are not going to come to their church if they don't have good programs, good parking, good childcare. That's the 'big box' store mentality. Thanks for sharing your insight, Larry.

  3. There where the Great King of Kings and Lord of Lords is honored.

  4. Yes, indeed, Patricia. Jesus said wherever two or three are gathered in My Name, I will be in there with them.