I Love the Intimate Church

A few years ago, I read what was one of a handful of books written for the pastors of smaller congregations. I thought it was a decent book, but I felt that it assumed a certain complacency among small churches. The author seemed to be explaining how to work within the odd, sometimes unnecessarily parochial way adopted by many small churches. He was surrendered to that as a reality and had accepted that it was immutable.

Personally, I don’t agree with that at all. I love smaller, more intimate congregations, but not as they usually are. I love them for what they can truly be. I believe with all my heart that the greatest potential for growth in the church is not in the mega churches but in the intimate congregations – assemblies of 200 or fewer members.

But in order to break out of the doldrums of mediocrity, these intimate congregations have to change. It is not enough for pastors to know how to “work the system” so people will give their consent to ideas. The people themselves need to change, as a body.

What kinds of changes do they need to embrace?

  • Let go of the stranglehold on the past – both the glory days and the dark days.
  • Demand that pastors and elders take time to discern and communicate God’s vision for them.
  • Tell the controllers (the peoplewho manipulate the congregation) the to either shut up or get out.
  • Stop envying bigger churches and have confidence in the vision God has given you.
  • Squash rumor mongering and tale-bearing and emphasize prayer and unity in the Spirit of God.
  • Be willing to kill ineffective ministry and be reborn.
  • Many small churches are visionless and leaderless because the leaders God has appointed among them are intimidated by self-appointed caretakers (controllers) who believe they are doing good by stifling the Spirit of God’s leaders. Change that, and the whole thing will start changing.

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