Reflections of 25 Years - Churches Are Too Big

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Larry Nelson's picture


I was a member for 20 years (1980 - 2000) of a Baptist church that had high attendance of 70.  For the past 15 years (2000 - the present), I have been a member of a Baptist church that has had high attendance of almost 3,500 (Easter of this year). 

Having experienced churches both small and large for extended periods, very little of this article resonated with me.  What the author claims about churches of either size has rarely been seen by me.  It's mostly baseless caricature.

I won't take the time to address his assertions point-by-point in detail, but I think many of them are laughable.  (At least I laughed...)  Here is just one:

"The Dumbed-down sermon" at larger churches?  Not at mine!  My present pastor, with his earned seminary M.Div. and Ph.D., provides breadth & depth in his preaching & teaching that my previous pastor (Bible college; no seminary) at the smaller church simply wasn't able to provide.  At the smaller church, many of the sermons (I cringe at the thought now) devolved into conspiracy theories, flirted with KJVOism, or somehow ended up as a diatribe (yet another) against smoking.  (Note: I knew of no one in the church who smoked...)

Larry Nelson's picture


The author says that churches should be in the business of planting other churches to avoid the problems (as he sees them) of getting too big.  My church has long been doing that.  We've planted seven other churches since 1971 (including the thriving Spanish-language church we & another large church jointly-planted  about 10 years ago).  The largest of the seven is itself now a "megachurch," and has been busy planting daughter churches of its own.....

Aaron Blumer's picture


The trouble with anecdotal evidence is that everybody's experience is different. I grew up in small traditional churches that featured highly competent, systematic, well-applied preaching and teaching. The nutty stuff--when I heard it at all--was from guest speakers. 

Oddly enough, though they were all small, the larger among them did not have the strongest pulpit ministries.

Given the info that comes in from systematic surveyors like LifeWay and Barna, there is certainly no strong correlation between bigger and better.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Larry Nelson's picture


Some things I've learned over the years:

1. There are good small churches.

2. There are bad small churches.

3. There are good medium-sized churches.

4. There are bad medium-sized churches.

5. There are good large churches.

6. There are bad large churches.

Larry Nelson's picture


"Every church has a culture that goes with its size and which must be accepted. Most people tend to prefer a certain size culture, and unfortunately, many give their favorite size culture a moral status and treat other size categories as spiritually and morally inferior. They may insist that the only biblical way to do church is to practice a certain size culture..."