Atlanta megachurch pastor Andy Stanley preached this the other day:
“When I hear adults say, ‘Well I don’t like a big church, I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,’ I say, ‘You are so stinking selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids…anybody else’s kids.’ You’re like, ‘What’s up?’ I’m saying if you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church.”
“Instead… you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church. And then they go to college and you pray that there will be a church in the college town that they connect with. And guess what? All those churches are big.”
Stanley later apologized for these remarks.
Still, the topic is worth talking about. Listening to Stanley’s remarks (see the clip above), I was reminded of the infamous command of Earl Butz, Nixon’s Agriculture secretary, who blasted small farmers and promoted industrialized agriculture, ordering the little guys to “get big or get out.” You can imagine what Wendell Berry thinks of Butz and his philosophy.
The late Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas — whose body was discovered on Friday to be incorrupt after four and a half years in the grave, unembalmed — had a principle about the size of churches. I can’t remember the number precisely, but it was something along these lines:
When the size of your church reaches 300, it is time to start a new church. A church any bigger than that cannot do for individuals and families within it what the church is meant to do.
I invite your thoughts on this matter. I will be away from the keys for the rest of the day, making the long drive back home to Louisiana. Please be patient; I will approve comments as I can.