How Big Should Centered-Set Churches Be?
This may fit the category of "only pastors would possibly care about this." But maybe not.
This weekend I talked with one of our blog-participants about whether centered-set churches should have the same assumptions as most evangelical pastors about how big their churches should be. I don't think I know a pastor (including the one in the mirror) who doesn't guage his or her self-image on the growth of his or her church. This gets reinforced by a certain church orthodoxy--there's a world to save, so continual church growth is just love and/or faithfulness to Jesus's parting instructions.
And yet megachurchdom strikes me as pretty strongly intertwined with what here we might call bounded-set (or maybe stage-2) modernism. Again, realize that I'd happily take megachurchdom if offered it, so I mean no moral statement in any of these reflections. But, stereotypically at least, the larger the church, the more a few things have to be in place. Competence, for instance, is clearly a big value. A broadly agreeable central message. A thoughtful means of managing peoples' needs. Obviously these are good things, but I wonder if they push for a kind of inevitable broad-based shallowness. I also wonder if really large churches have to be modernist--they have to be kind of a machine.
(Again, did I mention that these are broad-based generalizations? They're broad-based generalizations.)
I wonder if centered-set, stage-4-ish churches play under a different set of rules in terms of the most-desirable size. To my mind, they're still advised to pray for a size of some heft if only because nobody's served when the prospect of the church folding entirely is always present. But, after a threshold size has been reached (thresholds are subjective--I'd think God would have to set them case by case--but the thought here is that, subjective or not, they do exist), my current thinking is that going above them by a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand would only offer marginal gains, if any.
In our case, I've wondered if God is asking us to remain a vibrant, multi-textured (meaning it does a lot of things) church of some sweep and size in a very secular place. But if, so long as we maintain that, we provide a unique offer to the secular population of greater Boston. So long as we make sure the offer is widely-known (ads? "meaning in a pub" gatherings?, word of mouth?) and that we're diligent to make sure we're offering real access to newcomers, I can wonder if we've done our job, at least on the size front.