Mark Galli wrote a provocative article at Christianity Today entitled “How to Shrink a Church.” As one who has been part of “growing” two churches to half their original sizes, I was especially intrigued. I could not agree more with Galli’s “dilemma” (pg 2). We’re (sinfully) conditioned to assume bigger is better and more equals health. Consumerism has hijacked the church so that we evaluate ministry like we would a nation’s GDP. God has a different economy, however.
It’s terribly difficult to “sell” the notion that smaller might very well be better. It’s hard to rejoice over empty pews and even emptier coffers. It’s hard to convince folks that we did the right thing by doing the hard thing. Yet God’s pleasure is most often toward and his power most often displayed in the faithful few rather than the mighty many.
Therefore I could not be more encouraged by Galli’s exhortation:
The more strictly you adhere to the teachings of Jesus, the smaller the church will “grow.” One of the most crucial skills of a military commander is, in the face of defeat, to lead a retreat that doesn’t turn into panic or a massacre. And one of the most crucial skills for pastors and church lay leaders is to manage church decline when people are leaving because they see, finally, what Jesus is asking of them. This is not a job for the faint of heart, and will require great wisdom to manage resources, personnel, and morale in such a time.
It will take great wisdom, indeed.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (Jas 3.17).