Increase To Decrease
Several years ago I attended a Law Witness Mission at a church that once boasted a “Sunday School Orchestra” of 90 members! That was just the orchestra. In their “Sunday School Section” there were balconies so that several classes could be held in one general area. Today there is less than 90 members in the entire church.
Once a local church boasted of over a 1,000 who crammed into their service and even had Billy Graham in his early days preach there. Today they are less than 200.
Today, I attended church in a huge sanctuary that use to host hundreds on a Sunday morning, but today they have three services, two with only twenty-five each attending, and one with ninety!
So what does this say about the lasting power of large churches with great numbers in the wake of the mega-church movement? Many questions rise instead: Why the incline? Why couldn’t these churches maintain the numbers they had? Is church life “cyclical”? Did the buildings that housed the masses become the albatross to maintain in later years? These are all questions needing to be asked in an age where the number of people attending a church defines their “success” to many.
New churches feature relationships when they are infants, but as churches grow in numbers, it is easily to get lost in the crowd unless there is a “pastoral”, or “shepherding” component in the church’s ministry. Often churches that were evangelistic at birth grow quickly in numbers, wane when unable to nurture the new babes, this is why having a “shepherding” ministry is so crucial. If we do not learn lessons from history, we are doomed to repeat it. We need all five of the five fold ministries. We need the shepherd no matter how small or how large the congregation is.