In my last post, “Restaurant Size,” I stumbled upon the realization that the staff at Pazzia served their dinner guests fundamentally believing their seating capacity, building size, menu size, and number of franchises had nothing to do with being any more or less of a fantastic restaurant. Isn’t that how we, who are given the opportunity to labor in a “small” church (whatever “small” is to you), might want to view our labor in a local church? Let me ask it another way. Is church seating capacity, building size, menu of ministries, or number of franchise satellite/church-plants fundamentally linked with being any more or less of a fantastic church? I think the answer is no!
However, I very much used to think all the factors I just listed do make a church more or less. I’ve sat with a lot pastors who serve “small” churches who beat themselves up about their church size. We’ve been told – or at least we’ve picked up this idea that – we need to be concerned if we’re “small,” our brand isn’t well-known in our city, our buildings aren’t getting bigger & better, and we’re not so highly regarded and sought after that we’re franchising our ministry. We think that only when these metrics happen (I think I might stick a fork in my eye the next time I hear the word”metrics” at a church conference) can we consider our local body a fantastic church. My encounter with the lovely people at Pazzia tells me this is the wrong story to be telling ourselves.
Pastor Mark Batterson, from National Community Church in D. C. once observed that success is really “doing the best you have, with what you have, where you are.” I think that’s a more godly perspective on “success.” If Mark’s definition is right, and I think it is, it tells us that being a fantastic expression of the glory of God and His Gospel isn’t solely shaped by our particular gifting, our amount of resources, or our location. Being a fantastic church is dependent on us owning the goodness of the gifts God’s chosen to give us that can be leveraged for His great glory, owning the goodness of whatever resources God’s given us for the sake of His glory, and authentically being fully ourselves- not a copycat of our favorite podcast pastor – in whatever place God’s put us to reveal His glory. When that happens it really doesn’t matter if our church is a big celebrated church or a small hidden gem. It’s simply a fantastic outpost of God’s kingdom in a broken world. Who cares what the size is!?
I don’t intend this to be a diatribe against big churches. That is not my point. I’m not sure there actually is a size that is “best.” I’m just saying “small” churches need to stop hanging their heads and be bold, and un-apologetically passionate like the staff at Pazzia. For a more critical look at church size and the realities of what happens in church’s of various sizes I encourage to read pastor Timothy Keller’s extensive post on the issue of church size. He’s much smarter than I am. What do you think? I’d love to hear other thoughts.