The Incredible Shrinking Church

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).

3 thoughts on “The Incredible Shrinking Church

  1. Sadly, I had the opposite experience one. I was part of a strong, growing and Sprit-filled AOG church. A new pastor came on board, and started taking us down the Saddleback “seeker-friendly” road, and in two years took a church of over three thousand to less than 600. He eventually resigned.

    That said, I’ve personally experienced people leaving a church because they were asked to get serious about ministry, and about their Walk. Church is fun until people start talking about accountability, and all those other uncomfortable words.

  2. It is my experience in life that the leader is reflected in those he leads.
    A tree is known by its fruit..etc. Leading rightly pleases God and his sheep.
    Leading wrongly pleases few.
    To shrink one church is not significant. To shrink a 2nd one is discouraging.

    God’s Word is the shepherd’s staff. It can be used to guide or to strike,
    block paths or lead onward with the scripture.
    It is the Shepherd’s leaning pole, to rest when weary. If the sheep
    are struck too hard, they will scatter and lose confidence in the
    Shepherds leading and responsibilites.

    God’s Word is aptly understood by the Shepherd welding it but the
    sheep only know the Word by it’s proper use. Gentle proding and guiding,
    blocking and pointing will keep the sheep of God’s flock confident
    of the shepherd. The sheep are God’s and the shepherd is the hirling.

    Numbers in the church are unimportant. People are the important matter.
    If you are BRINGING people in to the Church, rejoice. When God’s people
    leave, ensure you voice Christ’s Love to them regardless of the circumstances
    for their departure. No one should believe they are alienated or not cared
    for in Christ’s church. Followup to ensure they find a new church home, then you
    will be able to rejoice in God’s will, which you could not know.


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