Over the past several years, I have heard a very one-sided diatribe against small churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. In some of my seminary classes I heard professors urging students to avoid “taking” established churches, and instead seek to plant new ones. “Established churches are full of a bunch of old people who are set in their ways—it’s a whole lot easier to build a new church the way you want it than have to deal with a bunch of stodgy old ladies.”—not a direct quote, but a continual refrain nonetheless. This is a more direct quote: “Most of those old churches just need to die anyway.”
While I would not accuse anyone in the current leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention of holding to those disparaging views, I will say that there is a tremendous bias toward the historical anomaly of mega-churches. Whether intentional or not, much denominational communication (including the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Interim Report) leaves the impression that a handful of “significant” churches must rescue our convention from the malaise left to us by small churches. The common caricature of the small church is this: old, dead, unwilling to change, antiquated, ingrown, self-centered and unevangelistic. I want to use the next few posts to paint a different picture.