I love big churches.
Any time massive numbers of people get together to worship Jesus, that’s a great thing.
But every size of church has its advantages and its challenges.
So there are both good and bad reasons to attend big churches just like there are good and bad reasons to attend Small Churches.
Today, I’m continuing my four-part series looking at those reasons.
If this post is the first one of the series you’re reading, please understand that it is not a criticism of big churches. It’s a challenge to people who choose to attend big churches for the wrong reasons.
To see the other side of this, check out my previous post, 5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Small Church and come back later for my upcoming post, 5 Good Reasons To Go To a Big Church.
Even if your church is great, it matters that we attend for the right reasons. So if you’re attending a big church for any of the following reasons, you don’t need to stop attending a big church. But you may want to assess and adjust your motivations.
1. Because I Want to Be an Anonymous Audience Member
Big churches can be very easy to go to – even as a first-time guest. Whenever someone walks into a room of 1,000 people or more, we know how to behave. Like an audience.
And that’s fine. In fact it’s more than fine. Whenever 1,000 or more people get together to worship and learn about Jesus, that’s fantastic!
But the downside is that it’s easy to stay passive and anonymous in a big church if you want to.
No, anonymity and passivity is not exclusive to big churches. Small Churches have our share, too. But it’s harder to be anonymous in a Small Church.
If you’re going to a big church because it’s drawing you forward in your worship, discipleship and more, that’s great! Millions of people experience that in big churches.
But there’s a segment of Christians who think sitting in church once a week (or twice a year) will provide all the spiritual nourishment we need – and that it will make God happy as he checks our name “present” in some non-existent heavenly attendance book.
As I wrote in “Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy the Service” May Be Killing Your Church, there’s also a segment of ministers who are willing to encourage that passive mindset. In all sizes of churches.
If you’re attending a big church because it’s easier to stay an anonymous, passive audience member, you’re doing a disservice to yourself, God and that church.
We all need to get and stay active in the life of a church body – whatever size it is.
2. Because I Want to Be a Religion Consumer
There are religion consumers in all sizes of churches, just as there are passive audience members.
But it’s easier to be a consumer in a big church. After all, they have a lot more to consume.
Big churches offer a great product. That’s one reason they got big, after all. Because a lot of people like what they have to offer.
But the downside of having a big church with great programs is that you’re likely to attract a higher percentage of those consumer-oriented religion shoppers.
Sure, a good church has a lot to offer people – spiritually, emotionally, financially and more. But the church does not exist to serve you. Or me.
The church exists to be a gathering of disciples who worship Jesus and serve together. And to point others towards becoming worshipers and disciples, too.
3. Because I Think Small Churches are Bad
This is the first of two flipsides to points from my previous post, 5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Small Church. This is the flipside of point #2: Because I Think Big Churches Are Bad.
Almost no one says the actual words, “I think small churches are bad”. But it’s often implied in the way we talk about the so-called failures and inadequacies of a smaller church simply for being small.
Being small doesn’t mean the church is unhealthy. Yes, all healthy things grow, but roses and redwoods grow in different ways.
If a bigger church works better for you than a small one does, that’s great. But don’t make the mistake of thinking a healthy rose isn’t a good church just because it’s not redwood-sized.
4. Because It’s the Cool Church
Small Churches are seldom cool. But cool is overrated.
As I wrote in The Grasshopper Myth:
I’d rather spend my time stuck in an elevator with geeks who know they’re geeks than in the world’s grandest, most luxurious venue surrounded by beautiful people trying to “out-cool” each other.
It’s one of the reasons I, and many others, like Small Churches. Small Churches are seldom smooth, corporate, institutional or cool. That may be one of the coolest things about them.
– The Grasshopper Myth: Chapter 11 – A New Way to Define Success
People who go to any church for the cool factor will leave just as quickly when another, cooler church comes along. And there’s always another, cooler church coming along.
Here’s another flipside. This time to point #4 of 5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Small Church: Because They Sing the Songs I Like.
Let’s face it. The quality of musicianship in bigger churches is almost always going to be better than in Small Churches. (I’m grateful to say my church has become an exception to that rule for the last several years. A big shout-out to Ami Garcia and our team!)
But high-end musicianship doesn’t necessarily mean that the worship is deeper.
I appreciate how we’ve changed our language in the past couple of decades from using terms like Music Minister and Music Departments to terms like Worship Leader and Worship Teams. It’s an important acknowledgement of their true purpose.
But, along with that language change, some people have started to equate worship almost exclusively with music – and musicianship.
“Good Worship” has become synonymous with high-end musicianship for many people. But, since great musicians are always a small percentage of any population, this trend has had the unintended consequence of making Small Churches feel like their worship is inadequate. And sometimes it turns non-musicians into passive audience members instead of being active worshipers.
I like quality music. In fact, I think it’s important. Every time we pick up an instrument or raise our voices in praise to Jesus, it needs to be done with all the excellence we can give it.
But the quality of musicianship has nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with the depth of the worship. There is great worship happening in churches of all sizes – and all levels of musical quality.
If worship matters to you, don’t settle for finding a church with great musicianship. Become a great worshiper in whatever church you go to.
Check out the other posts in this series:
- 5 Bad Reasons To Go To a Small Church
- 5 Good Reasons To Go To a Small Church
- 5 Good Reasons To Go To a Big Church
So what do you think? What are some other bad reasons to go to a big church?
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