3 Ways Our Megachurch Can Shrink

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog called, "Our Megachurch Has to Shrink..." While I'd encourage you to read it here if you haven't, the crux was,

If we want to reach the little neighborhoods all throughout our city really well, there's only one hope: Watermark's got to shrink.

The good news? We already have.

The four ways Watermark functions "bite-sized," I wrote, are...

  • With our households (families or roommates)
  • With our Christian neighbors
  • With Watermark's Ministry Partners
  • With our Community Groups

The impetus for that blog post was a seminar I attended recently, led by Juan Pena and Jason Janz of Denver's Providence Bible Church. Not only did they challenge us that doing "small-sized church" was the only real way to impact a neighborhood, they provided a few great points to help us do just that... by thinking differently. By thinking small.

In other words, this is how Watermark can successfully shrink.

1. Think Differently about Success

How do you define "ministry success"?

We would often define a stadium-filling ministry like Billy Graham's as "success" more quickly than the deep, long impact of someone like Mother Teresa. Both of those methods can be successful, but that's the point - the slow, fully invested care for a community is very much ministry success. And it's the type of success most of us have the opportunity for, right in our own backyards.

The speakers noted something else we as a Watermark family need to hear: Most believers, they said, don't really believe that "the church is the people, not the building." Ouch. How often do we only think of "success" in terms that would require our whole church to be involved, or a great leader to draw hundreds or thousands of people?

No, each of us has the opportunity to invest over time to impact our communities in powerful ways. But we have to be willing to call that "success."

2. Think Differently about Being Disciples

Too often Christians believe that proximity, participation, and education are the main pieces of following Christ. If we hang out with Christians, show up for worship services, and learn more about God, then we feel like we're being disciples.

But while all those things are part of a believer's walk with the Lord, they don't necessarily equate to the biblical definition of discipleship...

"Pick up your cross and follow Me."

The speakers noted that most church people will be "thrilled" to attend a class on reaching the community. But they'll be less excited if anyone actually pushes them and holds them accountable. (Ain't that the truth!)

The truth is, Watermark - or any big church - won't usually hold you accountable to engaging missionally in your neighborhood. But you know who can? Your very own "bite-sized version of Watermark," your Community Group. Have you invited them to push you in this way?

3. Think Differently about Place

It's rare to hear Christians - or at least Southern Evangelical Christians - talk much about the importance of place. (Maybe we'll make this an upcoming blog topic!) But these speakers challenged us to think about a "parish" model rather than a "metro" model.

In the parish model, a church seeks to focus on the neighborhood or community directly around the church building. They seek the good of that place, and they participate as members of that community.

A bigger church, like Watermark, may end up drawing people from all over a city. But that doesn't mean that individuals - in those four groups I noted above - can't adopt a "parish model" for their own lives. This can even mean defining where your ministry will take place - metaphorically "putting a steel fence around it," the speakers said, and only saying yes to ministry opportunities inside that "parish."

Another thinker on these topics, Tim Soerens, shared in a Christianity Today article:

Can you fathom what sort of collaborative ventures could arise if even 10% of Christian faith communities oriented around joining God in very particular places? ...

One metaphor I love to discuss with pastors and non-pastors alike is how they are becoming a character in the story of their neighborhood. If you think about it for a moment, becoming a character could take a little while. It means you are allowing yourself to become caught up in the plot of what's happening in the place you call home. It means you belong and you matter, it means that you begin to better understand yourself through the relationships with other characters in the neighborhood. And of course, it situates you within the ongoing story of God.

Photo Credit: emzepe via Compfight cc


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