Last week, while making reference to the best baseball movie ever, I made the point that churches are getting smaller and it’s harder for a church to grow in our world today. Toward the end of that post I made this statement: “Honestly, churches are going to get smaller, get leaner, and it will be painful. But I think it will be good thing in the end”. I feel like that statement needs a little explanation because how can smaller mean better? Doesn’t a smaller church mean a failing church? So let’s go on an adventure through a smaller, but better church. I’ll give you faithful readers two reasons why I think a smaller church will be better:
1. Death and resurrection is our business: There is a lot of fear going around the church at the moment. We are afraid of the new “post-modern” world we are entering. We are afraid of shrinking churches. I know it’s a surprise, but the church is afraid of the change that is going to happen.
This change is going to be rough because it means that the church is going to loose a lot of the privileges we think we deserve. Listen in church for the next couple weeks and someone will probably bemoan the fact that school/youth sports programs happen on Sundays. Here is a question that will get me in trouble: have you ever thought about why churches deserve tax breaks? I’m not old enough to know, but I’m sure it was great when the law and the larger culture enforced “Christian” norms and practices.
And now we are entering a time and culture where that enforcement is rapidly disappearing. The problem is that the larger culture (“this world” as Paul says in Romans 12:2) has given the church privilege for so long that we think we are dying when that privilege disappears.
But here is the thing: we are the people who believe that God works life out of death!
A good friend of mine remarked recently that “we are in the business of death and resurrection.” Truer gospel could not have been spoken. In order for the church to really reevaluate where we are and where we are going we are going to have to get rid of all the cultural baggage that has accumulated around us. That means some things are going to die. But if we truly believe that our God is a God of life then we can trust that out of death God will bring us new life and new strength. I don’t know about you, but I think we need new life and new strength right about now.
2. The Church is more like Jar Jar Binks and less like Han Solo and that is a good thing.
Everyone wants to be Hans Solo. He’s only one of the coolest characters ever.
As the church I think we are especially prone this desire. We want to see ourselves as the cool guys, blasting our way towards the defeat of evil and rescuing the princess. But brothers and sister I come here to make a confession: If there is one Star Wars character that fits the church it is probably Jar Jar Binks.
I know, Jar Jar is sometimes annoying, awkward, clumsy, and doesn’t really fit in well. Doesn’t that resemble the church? Christians frequently talk strange, can be annoying, and have different priorities in life that make us stand out and look kind of awkward.
And this is really a good thing. The church tries to be the ultra cool and always awesome institution in society (aka the Han Solo model of church development). In the process we do a lot more of that “conforming” Romans 12:2 tells us not to do. In that process it becomes harder to welcome those people who feel isolated and left out in society. The Church should embrace the fact that it is an odd people in a world with very different priorities because our God is a God who chooses the odd, awkward, left out, and down trodden. In my logic it will be easier for the Church to embrace it’s awkward, and frankly weird, character if we get a lot smaller. It’s harder to admit that your institution is home to the dispossessed, isolated, strange, and awkward when you are trying to be large, dominant, and cool. A smaller church will allow us take ownership of our true mission and nature.
These are by no means the only reasons why I think a smaller church will end up being a better church. As I said last week, it is going to be a hard and painful transition, but God wont let us go.