In conclusion, the authors talk some about definitions of success and how those definitions affect how you see yourself and your church.

He is quick to point out that large churches are not always bad, but points out various downsides of being in a large church, some of which I have experienced when I was at different large (where I define "large" as more than two or three hundred people) churches in Pittsburgh, where if you sit in a different seat on a particular Sunday, everyone assumes you are new to the church.

He also talks about the glamor of big-name preachers, and how some churches look for big-name speakers, both to pastor their churches, and for retreats, etc. There is a church in Pittsburgh that probably most people wouldn't recognize the name of the church, but lots of people would recognize the name of the pastor, mostly because that is how the church is advertised, as "so-and-so's church in wherever".   (And some people joke at our church about doing that for the pastor...)

In the sermon last wee, Andrew mentioned some grass-is-always-greener temptations that some pastors have, where small congregation pastors sometimes wish for larger congregations, and/or staff for the ministry that would be possible with those resources, and large congregation pastors sometimes wish for the "old days", when things were simpler and easier to manage, etc.

I guess it all comes down to how you define success.

Heather and I were talking about our food budget the other day (she aims for $300/month, but fails whenever I go shopping, and I've done a bunch of shopping this month) and we were talking about where I spent the money, and how it was different than how she would have spent it.  One thing that I got was a handful of "Tony's" pizzas, since they were on sale, and I figured you can always have more frozen pizzas around for those days that are busy, and it is easier to throw some toppings on a pizza than make dinner, and Heather said that we haven't been eating Tony's pizzas in a long time, and I thought that perhaps our consumption of Tony's pizzas is a good indicator of how life is going: if Heather has time to make homemade pizza and other dinners, things must be going pretty well.

Posted by Jon Daley on April 16, 2010, 10:57 pm | Read 10875 times
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So, how do the authors define success? How do you define it (for a church - homemade pizza as an indicator for a family isn't a bad definition at all)?

The size discussion reminds me of the second chapter on the power of context in Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" that discusses group sizes. An uncredited excerpt is online here; it gives the basic idea, which is that humans work best in groups of 150 or smaller. In larger groups it becomes impossible to know everyone in a meaningful way. Gladwell mentions the Hutterites, who form a new colony when one reaches 150 people.

So, the questions that come to mind:
- How can we achieve community in large churches?
- Why do so many churches follow the 150 rule by acrimonious splits instead of intentionally?

Posted by Stephan on April 17, 2010, 3:20 am

I didn't get a concrete sense of how the authors would define success, but I might have missed it. I think they might say that "it depends."

For me, I guess I'd try to define it in terms of growth in Christian maturity/sanctification in the average individual in the church. And since that is probably pretty hard to quantify, I'm not sure where one goes with that.

I think defining it by revenue generated or how many people attend on a weekend are bad measures of success, and I'd even say are inversely proportional to my definition of success in most cases.

I wouldn't be opposed to other factors like number of new believers (as opposed to new members, simply transferring from some other church) though even that number can be skewed by people seeking community or activities to do.

I think lots of ways of measuring turn out bad when they become the goal rather than the means of drawing nearer to God. I am thinking about how much of the bible do people have memorized, how often do they pray, probably anything that the "old-school" Pentecostals would have held up in high regard. And I guess I lean towards the later Pentecostals too, towards the charismatic side, but I have no idea how one would quantify that (and if you did, you'd probably end up with the downsides of things like the Toronto Blessing, which though I've never been there, I've heard from a number of people that in their opinion it started out as a move of God, but somewhere along the way, something was lost.)

I look to the 24x7 prayer movement as a more current example - and I pray that they don't lose their focus as it grows, and though again, I've never been to a meeting, I've talked to various people, read a book or two, and from what I hear from churches around here, it seems like it has lost something from the original prayer meetings. Certainly not everywhere, and maybe it is just who I hear from (at least I hope that is the case) but it seems like there are more people "doing" prayer or it is sort of a side thing, and people aren't really behind it.

In his sermon last week, Andrew said that people consider prayer a "nice" thing, and generally a good thing that a pastor would pray for his congregation, but not really a critical point.

Posted by Jon Daley on April 17, 2010, 9:39 am
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