I read a blog recently that was pessimistic about the small church.  Let me rephrase that — the blogger said, “There is no hope for the small church.”  He cited the following reasons:

  • He had read Good to Great by Jim Collins, and had applied Collins’ business insights to the church, and small churches in particular.
  • He concluded that small churches didn’t have the kind of leadership Collins describes (Level 5 leaders), and that even if small churches could find Level 5 leaders, the “wrong people were on the bus.”  (Collins talks about getting the “wrong” people off the corporate bus, and getting the “right” people on the bus.)

I am not mentioning this blogger’s name or blog because I completely disagree with him, and I have some reasons of my own:

  • Haven’t we learned enough to know that the corporation is not the model for the church?  Isn’t the whole emerging church/future church thing about rejecting the corporate model for doing church? 
  • Leadership, even Level 5 leadership, is less important than lordship.  After all, the early Christians professed, “Jesus is Lord”  — not “Jesus is leader.”
  • As to having the wrong people on the bus — I completely agree.  Sometimes we as pastors feel we have the wrong people on the bus.  Sounds like Moses, doesn’t it?  “God, why did you stick me with these faithless, obstinate people who want to go back to Egypt?”  Ever said that, or something to that effect?   

Small churches, like big churches and like Israel, are composed of the people of God.  So, it’s not a matter of getting some off the bus and others on the bus, it’s a matter of God’s people acting like God’s people. 

Frankly, I think there is great hope for the small church, especially in 2007.  Here are 5 reasons I am optimistic about the small church in 2007:

  1. A new wind is blowing.  Not since the charismatic movement or the church renewal movement (and those happened in the 1970s and 80s) has there been so much interest in figuring out what the church, the real church, ought to be and do.  And small churches are at the forefront of this transition from traditional-to- emerging, or whatever it will finally turn out to be. 
  2. Small, boutique, niche, and specialized is in.  Churches, especially small churches, are now free to focus on a few (or one) missional practice.  I recently read a blog of a church that has a “relocation” pastor — if you don’t like the way they do things, they’ll help you find a church where you fit.  They are unapologetic for who they are and what they do.  Pretty amazing!
  3. Technology is doing for the small church what the web did for small businesses.  The internet leveled the playing field for small businesses.  Technology — video, podcasts, blogs, websites, IMs, text messaging, etc — is very affordable and gives the small church the same tools as the large church.  Which brings me to my next point….
  4. Small churches and large churches are not competitors.  They’re different and differentiation is the trend in our culture.  Small churches no longer have to offer mini-versions of large church programs. 
  5. Small churches are nimble.  Okay, I’m using some business-model jargon myself, but the truth is, small churches are nimble.   Small churches can make quick decisions, require less support financially, and are better at managing resources.  (I just made all that up, but I believe it’s true.)

In a word, I am optimistic about the church, and the small church especially, in 2007.  I hope you are, too.  Happy New Year!