As our congregation continues to grow, we have to make sure we are thinking about that growth properly. We are, by the grace of God, growing into a fairly large congregation. When we combine this reality with all the other ministries that are going on in our small town—NSA, Logos, Trinity, etc.—we have to come to grips that all of us together are the size of a small town.
This means that we cannot have the closeness with “everybody” that we used to have. But the problem is that we were created for human closeness. How are we to deal with this?
Large churches can be spiritually unhealthy places, but they can also be healthy congregations. And consistently, when large churches are healthy, it is because of the presence and effectiveness of small groups. If you just have a big church, but no small personal connections, what will happen is that anonymity will swallow up your spiritual life. You almost might as well watch services on television. When big churches flourish it is only because their small groups are thriving.
These small groups may be systematically organized by the church, as our parish discipleship groups are, or they may be informal and organic, the result of natural connections through families, friendships, extended families, business ventures, or shared educational work. If you rejoice in our collective worship together, glad for what our numbers enable us to do, and if all your relational needs for deep fellowship are being met through some connections that grew up by themselves, then give thanks to God and carry on.
But if you are struggling with the size of the church, it will almost certainly be the result of your need for koinonia going unmet because you are not personally plugged in and connected. If that is the case in your case, then this is one of the central reasons for our parish discipleship groups. Now man was not made for church programs—church programs were made for man. We do not want to pressure people into activities they do not need. But if you do need personal fellowship and connection, then this is the need we are effectively addressing. This is your pastor speaking—sign up.
We certainly don’t think everybody needs to come to every church potluck. But if you were starving to death, I am not sure why you wouldn’t.