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The Incredible Future of the Medium- to Small-Sized Church

When most of us go to conferences and ministry events to learn as pastors, we are used to the headliners being name draw speakers who started their churches and grew them to thousands, often against exceptional odds. Thousands will fill rooms to hear them speak, and I go to hear them as well! We all dream that we are going to change the world and be the next Matt Chandler, Rick Warren or Tim Keller (not really—most of us know we’re not Keller-smart!).

The reality that we have over 400,000 churches in the U.S. and just over 1,600 megachurches (churches of 2,000 or more) means that 398,400 of us are never going to be that! But don’t be discouraged. You can still change your city and the world (and you may actually be better at changing it than a huge church).

We should all want our churches to grow. We should constantly study our stats and where we are along with what’s going good and not so good. But honestly, a huge church can get in the way of a global church and engaging the world and the city that it is in. Transformation of a community takes more than money. You have to be nimble and pliable. A large church generally has committees. And if not committees, even independent contemporary churches have stated objectives and processes that often take precedent over unique opportunities that come up and the ability to respond beyond money.

I once met with a pastor I respect a lot, Robert Lewis, who for years pastored Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Ark. I remember sharing with him that I was leading our “church to be the missionary” and how hard it was to grow it and engage our city as well as Vietnam and a couple of other places around the world. He told me, “Bob, I pray your church doesn’t grow anymore!” How could he say something like that! I responded, “Dude, you grew your church to thousands—what in the world do you mean?!!” He said that the worst thing in the world that could happen is to be trapped managing a huge church. We had the ability to do some very unique things, but the larger we got the more we would lose that. One of my mentors and spiritual fathers, Bobb Beihl, told me the same thing. They’re right. Get over yourself and get into the kingdom!

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