In his insightful article 11 Advantages Of Having 50 Churches Of 100 Instead Of 1 Church Of 5,000, Karl Vaters makes the compelling argument that big churches are not the only way to see the Kingdom of God move forward.
How many failed churches might still be alive and well today if we didn’t pressure them to reach numerical goals that most churches, even after decades of existence, fail to achieve? What would happen if, instead of sending one church planter to start a church, hoping for it to reach (to pick an arbitrary number) 5,000 attendees, we sent out 50 church planters, and resourced them with the tools to grow to 100 on average?
Vaters is not criticizing megachurches but, rather, reminding us not to overlook the benefit of this type of planting movement. In addition to the fact that megachurches are rare, planting a greater number of smaller churches could create a healthier ministry atmosphere for pastors, leaders, and congregations by empowering a great number of people for ministry and creating more realistic expectations of membership growth.
Further, as we imagine witnessing to the redeeming love of Christ throughout San Diego, which is “one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse places in the nation,” this kind of movement would be poised to reach a broad range of people and cultures. Imagine the difference between mass-produced and custom-crafted. By 2020, our city’s population is expected to exceed 1.5 million people, with over 3.5 million in the county. We need all the healthy churches we can in order to reach our city and region for Christ.
In addition to the 11 points Vaters makes, we would add that this approach creates a built-in flexibility that is more difficult to express in larger churches. Turning around a big ship can take a long time. As many entrepreneurs have noted, the ability to remain nimble is a key value that many startups seek to maintain even as their businesses continue to grow. We encourage new churches to nurture this ability to adapt and course-correct.
Certainly, we value and support church plants of all sizes. We trust in God as the author and perfector of our faith and our churches, big or small. This call to redefine our metrics for success is simply an invitation to cultivate Kingdom-imagination in reaching our city and region.