Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Taiwan has many small churches: many have a building but only perhaps thirty members to support the pastor and maintain the building. Rural churches and churches in economically depressed areas of the United States may have similar problems. My thoughts about what are the blessings and challenges for small churches are as follows.
Limited If Any Growth Through Transfers:
For Taiwan, there are very few Christians compared to the overall population, perhaps 2-3 percent. Therefore a church may possibly grow by transfers or even "sheep-stealing" but such growth will in the long run be a detriment to the growth of Christ's church in Taiwan. It is better to have many smaller churches 100-200 people than to have one mega-church. Without being specific, I'll just cite studies of Korean mega-churches and the effect on the region that support the case.
For Churches in the U.S.: it seems that because of the economy in many areas, especially rural areas, many people are transferring away. Therefore the church will not tend to grow in numbers by transfers. So a reformed presbyterian church cannot simply focus on providing a home for Christians who are already reformed. Further, the size of the small church presents a simple yet difficult barrier to many who might visit but prefer a bigger church.
Blessings of a Small Size
That the church is small is good for a number of reasons. Here are five listed below:
1* Everyone has to help and cannot sit passively and anonymously like at a big church. That is healthy.
2* Also, it means that you may be more humble and less trusting in your own strength or your own understanding and more trusting in God and leaning on Him for results. That is a good place to be in.
3* It also means -- that you need to seek growth through conversion and discipleship rather than transfers. Being small helps focus the energy in the right place.
4* Being small also challenges you to grow in your own life rather than coasting on what you have already attained.
5* Being small means that there is more need for you to give sacrificially of your time and money. That also is a good thing.
Growth through Conversion and Discipleship:
A church might take the strategy of being the best Biblical teaching around. So Christians who became believers in other churches might possibly feel a need at some point for more meat from the pulpit and so begin to come to that church. However they also bring a lot of their ideas and notions with them that may be create conflict in their new church and ultimately lead to their leaving it and taking a few of the existing members along with them. Care must be taken to disciples these folks that were converted at another church.
Ideally church growth will happen through the church members focusing on evangelism and discipleship: sharing the gospel, making disciples and then helping them mature, teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded them.
Growing through conversion and discipleship is illustrated in Acts. Every Christian at the church can make it a regular part of their lifestyle to share with others the amount that they know, even if it is only how they became Christians. Adult men and women need to step up. But also, parents can train their children to share the gospel.
Conversion and discipleship of others will most likely come through investing in relationship with non-Christians that are ongoing. Are you doing that weekly?
Discipleship: Like in Titus 2 more mature Christian women should find younger women to mentor. The implicit parallel is there more mature Christian men should find less mature men to mentor. There is a corollary: No matter what level of maturity you are, find someone to sharpen you even as you find others whom you can devote your time to sharpening.
Finally -- Hospitality seems so key these days. Are you inviting neighbors over for dinner, or people you know at work or parents of other children in your kids' school? Are you prepared to invite a newcomer over to your house after the church worship service on Sundays? Just think if each visitor had two or three families inviting them over, it would make an impression, especially if these families did actually follow up their invite and the newcomer ended up being hosted in several homes. Also in my experience a lot of evangelism and discipleship happens when others come to hang out at the house and you ask pertinent questions about the sermon or other part of the worship service that Sunday. When they leave, ask them if they have any prayer requests and pray with them out loud for God's blessing on their lives.
Please pray for us and the Taiwanese churches where we serve as we seek to practice what we preach in Taiwan.