Category Archives: Church Membership

Smaller Is Better – For Me

I pastor a church where 225 people call themselves “regular attenders” and another 60 or so are “trying us out” on any given month.  When people ask me about my church, I often refer to it as a “small” church, because I know of several larger churches.  However, it looks like I’m wrong.

According to Outreach Magazine, 90% of the churches in the world have fewer than 200 people, and 80% have fewer than 100.  Most pastors will spend the majority of their ministry in small churches. 90% will never pastor a church larger than 200 people.

I love my church – the people that is (as opposed to the building or institution) – and I’m very content (and blessed) to be their pastor.  We may be considered “large” by comparison to the rest of the world, but I’m glad we’re not too large.  Years ago, I was offered a position to pastor a church that at the time had 1,000 attenders.  At the same time, I was offered the position I’m currently in.  I had to decide between pastoring  a “large” church or a “small” one.

the-pastorIt just so happened that when I was faced with this decision, I was reading Eugene Peterson’s memoir called The Pastor.  In it, he talked about the “small” church of 300 people that he pastored for 30 years, and in great detail, he described the deep connections he was able to make.  He said that because of the smaller size, he was able to “know” everyone in the church.

This really made an impact on me because at the time, I was serving as an associate pastor at the 1,000 member church and felt unsettled not being able to connect with and know all those people.  Especially unsettling was when people would come up to me during the week in public and tell me how my preaching was making a difference in their lives, and until that meeting, I had never seen them before.

I don’t have a problem with big churches; God has just made it clear to me that smaller is better – for me.  I’m glad that I “know” the people of my church, and I Iove that they invite me into their lives.

But armed with these newly discovered statistics, I may just tell people – when they ask – that I pastor a “very large” church – one of the top 10% in size churches in the world!

Cool Church is NOT Cool

cool-churchChurch attendance has plummeted among young adults. In the U.S. 59% of people 18 to 29 with a Christian background have, at some point, dropped out. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, among those who came of age around the year 2000, a solid quarter claim no religious affiliation, making them significantly more disconnected from faith than Gen-Xers were at a comparable point in their lives and twice as detached as Boomers were as young adults.

In response, many churches have sought to lure Millennials back by focusing on style points: cooler bands, hipper worship, edgier programming and impressive technology.

Recent Barna Group research found 67% of Millennials prefer a “classic” church over a “trendy” one, and 77% would choose a “sanctuary” over an “auditorium.” They also exhibit an increasing aversion to exclusive, closed-minded religious communities masquerading as hip places.

Barna’s David Kinnaman said “Millennials are not disillusioned with tradition; they are frustrated with slick or shallow expressions of religion.”

“Well Intentioned Dragons” aka “Sheep That Bite” aka “Clergy Killers”

Wow. This video clip is powerful. Maybe it’s because I’m considered a part of the “clergy,” or maybe it’s because I do have a sensitive heart (really, I do!), but this moved me.  Especially the last few seconds.  I’ve felt what that pastor is feeling.  I’ve said what that pastor is saying.  I’ve been brought to tears like he is.  Please pray for your pastor.  I (we) understand that everyone has pressure and difficulty in life, but I can speak from years of observation, study, and experience that being a pastor is a hard calling.  There is an intense spiritual battle that wages in a pastor’s life and in his family that is not common to anyone else. I know of many pastors who have asked God to remove this calling from their lives.  I have before.  But He has not, and most days, I’m thankful He has not removed this calling.  But there are days…

Years ago, I was given a book by a fellow pastor called, Well Intentioned Dragons, and the book introduced me to what I would experience again and again in my pastoral ministry: “sheep that bite.”  That’s how one of my pastor friends describe people in the church who cause dissension, trouble, and pain for other church members and for their pastor.  And over the years, I’ve been bitten several times by people in the church that I know and love – people that I thought knew and loved me.  In no way am I indicting any one church that I have served.  All are filled with good and loving people.  But each one has biting sheep among them as well.  As one pastor says in this clip, “I don’t think most people have any clue that this goes on.”  Unfortunately, it does.

I was recently sent this clip from a fellow pastor.  I have not watched the full documentary, but I plan to.  And like I said, this clip moved me.  It resonated with me.  It saddened me.

Here’s the link to the web site with more information on this video.


Why Church Is So Important

As a child, I remember complaining about going to church.  My mother was under the conviction that we needed to be in church whenever the church doors were open…and they were open a lot!  As an adult and a pastor, I still occasionally complain about going to church, but that seems a bit self-defeating, so I’m trying to knock it off.  I know quite a few adults who claim to be Christians but who do not go to church.  I’m not writing this to condemn or judge but to remind – remind all of us why church is so important and why going to church is so important.

I recently read an article on The Gospel Coalition’s web site in which the author gave 10 reasons why church is so important.  Let me just paraphrase a few of them.  The link to the full article is at the bottom, and if you’re a mother of small children, then you’ll really appreciate reading all of it.

Why corporate worship and being a part of a church is so important:

1. God is glorified in our public profession of His supreme worth.

2. Being part of the church is who we are as all the saints are united to one another under Jesus our Head. Remembering who we’re saved to be in the context of the body of Christ helps deal with our prideful independence. We need to be part of the body; isolating ourselves from the body is to our detriment.

3. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling means that our contribution to fellowship has tremendous value for others.  The body needs us; isolating ourselves from the body is to the detriment of others.

4. Corporate worship is a venue to participate in the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism. It helps us to remember the plural “you” when we hear, “Christ’s body and blood were given for you.” Witnessing baptisms strengthens our faith as we consider what a public profession of identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus truly means.

5. Our participation in corporate worship is a safeguard against lackadaisical private worship. Coming together with the body of Christ to worship the risen Christ reminds us that worship is not about us.

6. Corporate worship is a taste of heaven as the nations gather and publicly adore Jesus together.

Some people think that because I’m the pastor, I’m the only one who really has to go to church each Sunday, but this just isn’t true.  All Christians are called to gather together for worship each week, and all are needed.

To read the entire article, click here: 10 Ways Ecclesiology Encourages Me by Gloria Furman