“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
John 6:60 (NIV)
“From this time, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” John 6:66 (NIV)
As we traveled south on I-75 in western Ohio, my husband Shawn and I wondered whether or not the following was true: huge church = blessing of God. A comment we heard by a popular preacher sparked the discussion. She said something like, “Small churches of 80-150 are that small because they’re not being Jesus to others.” She is the pastor of a very large church–a church with thousands upon thousands of people.
I get what she is saying. I believe she would say that Jesus attracted people to himself, so people (who are hurting and searching) would want to come to our churches if we were being Jesus to them. If people aren’t coming to our churches, it’s because we’re not being Jesus to those around us.
I grant her point. But then I think about some mega-churches with thousands attending. It is probably true that these pastors are charismatic, good at amassing followers, and good at telling parishioners what they want to hear. Yet perhaps they’re more in love with money, fame, and prestige. Because it just is the case that in some of these churches pastors don’t share the gospel and good news of the kingdom; they share and spread heresy. The Old Testament indicates that the nation of Israel was full of false prophets who told people what they wanted to hear. Consequently, it should be no surprise that false prophets infiltrate our churches today (and they’re not just in mega-churches!).
There are pastors of small congregations who are wonderful people and powerful preachers–who follow Jesus daily and still have tiny congregations. What gives?
Well, I am not completely sure and the answer to that question isn’t within the scope of this little post. I will just say that Shawn and I concluded the obvious: huge church does not necessarily = the blessing of God. A corollary is: small church doesn’t necessarily = curse of God.
Jesus had huge crowds following him. His popularity threatened the religious rulers of his day. However, in John 6, when he told the crowds that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, many turned away. The number of followers shrank because of the offense of the gospel. The gospel is offensively good news.
If we are preaching and living the truth in our churches–following Jesus with our hearts, souls, strengths and minds, many will be attracted but some will be repelled.