Friday, July 31, 2015

Go Big or Go Home: How "Big" Has Invaded the Church

Is our obsession with big churches rooted in mission or just our desire for “big”?

We are a nation in love with big things. We are told to dream big, live large, score high, rack up an impressive following, and measure success in ever-rising numbers. Measuring is key to success—we need proof and we need it often. Trusting in God is all well and good, but that will hardly help us raise the money we need for our Big Screen lives.

The church was never meant to be in the business of “big”; still, we can’t seem to escape its perpetual temptation. Where once our love of scale took the form of Cathedrals grand enough to offer a foretaste of heaven, today, we covet leaders with big visions for growing the church and innovative programs to implement them. (If there’s a pastor search document in America that reads: “We’re looking for someone to shrink the church,” I’d like to see it). As the Church is just a bunch of folks as susceptible to the love of “big” as the culture has proved to be, she’s fallen prey to the 21st-Century American telos: big = best.

But the concept of “big” outside of God himself is simply not part of the gospel. In fact, the word only appears four times in the whole New Testament, most tellingly in a cautionary tale: the Parable of the Rich Fool who looks for shalom in his bounty. “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain" (Luke 12:18). Isn’t this exactly what we do when we build big churches? We seek to “store up” the faithful—our faithful—to secure the proof that our lives of Kingdom work have not been in vain? We create a thumping worship experience to mirror the buzz of the Holy Spirit, who can’t always be counted on to show.

“Sure,” we say, “As soon as the new building is finished, or the new sound system is installed, or we’ve hired a new pastor to take care of outreach, well then, yes, absolutely, we will send our people and resources out into the mission field.”

Herein lies the danger of “big”: tangible growth is easy to credit as blessing, but releasing our bounty back out to his Kingdom goes against every self-preservation instinct we have in our bodies. Keep reading

Photo credit:  Fox News Radio

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