Sunday, May 9, 2010

Maybe Churches Need to Grow Smaller

Churches seem to often be focused on increasing the size of their church. While having church growth is a good thing, and often means there are more Christians coming in all the time, I’m beginning to think these super-churches miss the point of church. I am currently staying on my Aunty and Uncles farm just outside of Dannevirke, and I had the pleasure of visiting their church, Hosanna Baptist. This church was planted in February last year, so it is only one year old, and has about thirty members. It was a really amazing experience; the pastor was a chap with a stomach the size of a small car, but his church had passion ten times that size. Maybe it was partially because the church is predominantly Maori and Pacific Islanders, who in my experience make some of the best Christians. But it seemed to me that much of the passion was due to the family like atmosphere. When I walked in the door I was greeted with a hug, by a lovely old lady who could have easily have been my Grandmother. We were running a little late so there was no time for more than a quick hello, before we made it to our seats for the worship. Which was fantastic, it was in the traditional Maori style, there was a cheap(ish) acoustic guitar, playing with a very loose, free hand style. A bass guitar, played fairly well by a chap who was obviously having a ball, the smile on his face was a mile wide. Then there were three singers (plus the guitarist who was singing) all quite good, the tone of their voices didn’t quite work brilliantly together, but that’s completely missing the point. And then the rest of the band was made up by two brothers who had been told (or maybe they offered) to learn instruments; a reasonable drummer and a talented but unconfident pianist. Now nothing I have mentioned there is amazing or fantastic, but the worship was. That’s because they were playing music with no other attempt than to worship God. They weren’t trying to make it sound “cool” or “hip”, which is good because if they had they would have crashed and burned, they weren’t caught up on excellence, they were just trying to worship, to the best of their abilities, which is what made it fantastic.
Half way through this worship session they stopped playing and told everyone to hug everyone else. But it wasn’t like in other churches I’ve been in where that type of thing has happened, and everyone turns and hugs the person next to them awkwardly. Everyone (except perhaps me) actually wanted and felt comfortable with this concept. But it seemed the entire church took this as an opportunity to meet and hug me. I met and hugged over 25 people that day, all of whom names I have since forgotten. Though I felt a little awkward hugging people who I’d never met in my life, and whose name I had forgotten, they seemed like they were welcoming a new member to the family, like my family would when one of my many siblings got married, or brought home a FiancĂ©e.
This family attitude, I believe, has added the amazing feel and atmosphere. I felt like this is what church should be like and it was a far cry from the flashing lights and guest speakers I have in the past been accustomed to. Maybe this is the direction the church needs to grow, maybe this family attitude is more like what the actual church should be. Church is about growing close to a family of fellow Christians, it’s not about numbers, music or fancy suits. It’s not about how comfy the suit is, how big the church buildings are or how flash the leaflet you are handed is. It’s about being greeted with a hug even if it’s your first time, a “Welcome Home Brother” hug. That is what the church is all about.