The persistently growing congregation is a relatively new phenomenon – and an even more recent expectation.
Aside from the grand cathedrals of Europe (which were often the result of politics and power more than faith), it wasn’t physically possible for local congregations to become massive until very recently in history.
It’s not a coincidence that megachurches came after the arrival of cars, highways and public transit. The regular gathering of massive crowds requires the physical ability to move huge numbers of people safely, consistently and inexpensively.
Until the mass transit era, people built church facilities that suited their immediate environment – as in their small town or neighborhood. Then, when more people came to faith in Christ, they’d build another meeting place close by, within walking distance of the people in the next neighborhood or town.