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Confessions of a Small Church Pastor

A Must-read Conversation With Rick Warren


You need to read The Future of Evangelicalism:  A Conversation With Rick Warren over at The Pew Forum.  It’s long, and covers a lot of territory, but in it Rick talks about how megachurches do the small church thing (my words, not his).  Here’s a quick excerpt:

WARREN: For example, our church, while we have the big services on Sunday, we meet in homes during the week in small groups of six to eight people. We have over 4,500 small groups. They meet in every city in Southern California.

CROMARTIE: How many again?

WARREN: Four-thousand-five-hundred. They meet in every city in Southern California from Santa Monica to Carlsbad. It’s a hundred miles distance in our small groups. So on Sunday morning they’re coming to Saddleback or they’re going to Saddleback San Clemente or Saddleback Irvine or Saddleback Corona, but during the week they’re in small groups.

And it is in that small group – when you get sick, you’re visited in the hospital. When you’re out of work, the people help you out. There is a real tight-knit community. There is a longing for belonging in our community, and large churches have figured out it’s not the crowd that attracts; it’s the stuff under the surface that attracts.”

Bingo!  I love that line….“it’s not the crowd that attracts; its the stuff under the surface that attracts.” Of course, Rick points out that the largest churches in the world are not in the US, but in Asia, Africa, and South America.  Read the entire interview.  It’s good stuff about issues of interest to us all, no matter what size church you serve.

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Categories: Congregation, Global issues, Missional Church, outreach, Pastoral Care, trends

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5 replies

  1. I’m not saying that i necessarily agree with everything Warren says, but Evangelical Christianity could do a lot worse than having him as one of its spokespersons.

  2. Brad, I agree. I thought Warren came off very well, especially with the ‘bridge-building’ and goodwill stuff. His stock went up in my opinion. BTW, I should be able to get to your book in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to it. -Chuck

  3. How many small groups he has is not the key statistic of the power of small groups to attract. The key statistic is the percentage of people who are in the big groups that also do the small groups. That big number of small groups may actually be only 25% of the participation in big group time. If it is that small, he would never give that stat out because he knows it’s a bad one. He likes the bigger sounding number better. When you know the percentage is high, then you can say there is power and attraction in the small groups. I personally doubt his percentage is much over 25%. I myself know the time and heart energy struggle to do both big and small groups. I finally realized there are no clear Biblical instructions for doing one-way communication and big group, unless you want to assume that “preach the Word…” = lecture the Word by a hired man. The clear instructions are for “one another” communication over and over again.

    “it’s not the crowd that attracts; it’s the stuff under the surface that attracts.”
    I don’t think Warren really believes it is actually happening. I think he believes that that is the way God designed it and those who do it realize it, but a large percentage of saints do not believe it so they don’t do it. The number of saints who love the anonymity, casualness, and passivity of big groups is probably 4 to 1, even in churches that hire a professional to pump small groups. There may be exceptions to this but not many.

    • My sense is that Warren believes in his small groups, but I can’t speak to his motivations. You may be right — I am sure the percentage of participants in small groups is always less than any pastor would hope for, no matter what size church you’re in.

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