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Bigger is Not Always Better—And How to Resist It

Once again, missional communities should not try to emulate the celebrity pastor thing. Nonetheless, we must pay attention to the teaching role in our communities. We must recognize excellent teachers in our midst, develop them and see that they are proclaiming gospel into our context/the issues of our everyday lives. Not everyone is a teacher. We must facilitate the gifted teachers in our midst and fund the church’s imagination with powerful proclamation of the Word into our immediate context as well as good consistent upbuilding of the church in understanding the whole story of God. I believe once Jack could see how powerful contextual proclamation can shape the life he lives in and the problems he faces and the manner in which he is called to live into the reality that Jesus is Lord in his life, work and neighborhood, he’d consider becoming a part of a local missional community.

3.) Big church is less messy. They can go and leave, get what they think they want, and be given a task. Most American Christians see church as an amenity to be added on to their lives. Christianity for the average American Christian is: a.) going to a church service, learning something and expressing some praise to God, b.) giving a tithe, and c.) getting involved in two to three hours a week of volunteer service. Most Americans choose where they can do these things in ways where they “get the most” out of a.) and can do c.) in a way that appeals to them. The more conveniently this can be done the better. Large megachurches excel at accommodating this.

Again, missional gatherings should not try to duplicate this aspect of American church either. But we can help people understand the power of true community, of being present in one another’s lives and in the communities we live in. We must not make ‘missional community’ something people must “do”: a more demanding program. We must work to enable people to live the lives they already lead more powerfully, with more missional awareness, with Kingdom priorities, in a way that is more interconnected so that the Kingdom is birthed socially in our midst. We must provide ways of initiating people into this way of life that are not onerous!! I believe this is incredibly important because people coming from American church are going to so quickly misunderstand missional community as a more demanding (legalistic) program (see my debate with Anthony Bradley here). I believe if Jack could have an easier way to understand what he is being invited into in a missional community, he’d consider going to a smaller local gathering differently.

I think these are tumultuous times in megachurch land. I see waves of people leaving megachurches. They are in danger of becoming the next disenchanted generation of Christianity because of their experiences of bad church. Will missional communities offer a bridge to these people?

What say you? Why do people resist “going” to a small community? How do you think missional communities can build bridges to those leaving megachurches? Or should we?  

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David Fitch is a bi-vocational pastor at Life on the Vine and the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary.