Small organic church vs large organized church-which is right?
This is a question that has been on my mind and heart for the last few years. As of late, I’ve honed my theological and ecclesial reflections on the beauty and simplicity of small church, preferring smaller gatherings that have exponentially smaller overhead and, to me, are more reminiscant of true Christian community.
Venturing down that road has led me to (slightly) disdain large organized churches, thinking that the overhead and finances to support such an organization distract and take away the purity of small gatherings.
This dichtomoy, however, has been poked at as I’ve been reading the scriptures.
When I read the Gospels and Acts, my heart goes, “See? Community as prescribed and described in the Bible was so small and organic.” In the house churches in Acts, and in the small discipleship gatherings that Jesus started, the church was simply a group of people who had experienced the Messiah and wanted to follow in Jesus’ teachings.
Very little is required to do that kind of church. Church was mobile, organic, and grassroots; it had a structure that allowed for people to serve quickly; and the community took complete ownership in the absence of a large centralized leadership. My heart goes, “Man this is amazing.”
However, I’ve been reading Paul’s letters recently, namely Titus, and I get a different view of church.
What I see is that the church was small, fertile, mobile and organic in Acts. But by the time period of Titus, the church has grown so much that they were probably struggling with the question of “how do we now organize now that we’re no longer just a few hundred, but a few thousands?”
It’s for that reason that Paul encourages Titus to “elect leaders in every city.” Implicit in this command is a sort of hierarchical organization absent from my reading of the gospels and Acts. The rest of the letter is Paul giving organizational requirements for leadership that spanned across different geographical locations, an activity more reminiscent of organized large churches of today.
Small church vs large church…which does the Bible promote? The truth is…both.
As a matter of fact, small church vs large church ain’t a thing. There doesn’t seem to be such a dichotomy in the scriptures. Both operated, both existed, and both are modeled as true expressions of followers of Jesus.
Organization is never the problem; it is the heart and spirit behind it. There are fruitless house churches and fruitful large churches. And vice versa. As long as we are obeying and loving Jesus, and making disciples of the world, large church and small church ain’t a thing.