I have only been in ministry about 14 years. In that time, I have been part of two revitalization churches and two church plants. We have been graced with tremendous growth in all four churches. One church was a smaller church, but the other three have grown to be considered larger churches. I grew up in a large church. So, that is most of my church experience.
It goes through seasons, but periodically I will hear less than positive remarks from people about their perception of growing or large churches. Sometimes it comes from within the church—someone who may struggle as the church experiences growth—which always means change. The majority of the time, however, the criticism comes from people outside the church making observations about the church.
And those are the comments I’m addressing here. Comments from people who really do not have experience with larger or growing (especially fast-growing) churches.
These comments are usually well-meaning in terms of the person’s concern for the church. At least, I’m willing to assume. But they are usually also generalized and often given without complete understanding about the specific church.
These type of comments are easily repeated. Some people love to talk. If we are not careful, they become detrimental to the Kingdom. Because some of them—I would even say most—are simply not true. At least in the churches with which I’ve been affiliated directly. (Which are really the only churches we can definitively criticize. And even then, the larger the church the harder it is to understand all that is taking place within it.)
Here are seven unfair criticisms of growing or large churches:
“All you care about is the numbers.”
This is always a funny one for me. Most of the time people who say this are in churches that also count numbers. I’ve been in some very small churches that even post their numbers on the wall in the back of the church. Numbers are important. In all churches. Because they represent people. For me, I don’t want to pastor a growing church where people aren’t equally growing in their individual walk with Christ. Every large church pastor I know personally feels that way. But to know this one, whether you’re in the church or not, you’d really have to know the heart of the people in positions of leadership. I know this, however, it is certainly not a fair generalization of large or growing churches.