I am often intrigued when people make radical, bold statements and argue strongly for them.
Steve Timmis did this yesterday and I am still pondering his thoughts.
He stated ‘there is absolutely no biblical warrant for, nor actual need for larger church gatherings. In fact these are detrimental to the processes of discipleship and mission’. I heard him say this on Tuesday so on Wednesday I asked him the exact same question as I wanted to clarify what I heard him say. I wanted to make sure I didn’t misquote him or mishear him.
Steve argued his case from a biblical point of view, not simply a pragmatic one.
He argued biblically that:
– the temple/house scenario of Acts ceased to exist after the diaspora.
– the church at Corinth etc were very likely smaller household gatherings.
– that the larger ‘church’ is an eschatalogical reality and we can wait for that.
Probably all fair statements.
On a more pragmatic level he suggested that:
– larger gatherings do not engage in discipleship as effectively (this is debatable because I don’t think this is a function of size but of leadership and culture)
– large church is resource intensive and costly. (no issue here – it is heavy on both people and financial resources)
– there is nothing that happens in ‘large church’ that cannot be done in small church. (ummm… I dunno…)
– that the vibe of a larger gathering can be obtained at a football match and is not necessarily related to the presence of God. (yep)
Hmmm… on a pragmatic level I am probably still unconvinced.
Although there is much that we would agree on, Steve actually comes from a somewhat different paradigm to those of us who are in the Forge network. He is much more focused on church enabling mission than mission leading to church. You can read his philosophy here download romeo is bleeding .
He is also a self confessed ‘calvinist’ and deeply committed to reformed theology. (which is interesting because most of the fruit – loop blogs (I refuse to link to them) who criticise and malign any alternative expression of church are of similar theological bent.
It is always refreshing to meet people who are well earthed theologically, but prepared to be radical in practice. There is so little in the way of fresh imagination when it comes to thinking thru how we operate as church, and way too much mindless imitation. Steve has chosen a different path, not because it is funky and new but because he believes it has currency theologically and practically.
His question still challenges me.
Is there anything that can be achieved in a large church gathering that cannot be accomplished in a smaller one and is the smaller group more likely to result in authentic discipleship.
Don’t let your biases (or your pay-check) rule your response!!