Seth Godin said it first, “Small is the new big.” Now it appears, big churches are the new small churches.
Let me explain. The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas is sponsoring Verge, a missional community conference. Felicity Dale of simplychurch.com and a leader in the simple church movement, comments about the new interest megachurches are showing in microchurches:
Just over a year ago, within the space of 72 hours, Tony and I had three megachurches ask us about simple church. We may be fairly slow on the uptake at times, but even we couldn’t miss the fact that this might be the Lord. Since then we have had a two national meetings with megachurch and microchurch leaders meeting together, and even the theme of last year’s national conference “The Rabbit and the Elephant” reflected this potential.
Austin Stone Community Church is one of those megachurches interested in using microchurches (missional communities) to reach Austin. So, small is the new big, as Seth Godin said.
Megachurches are coming to the realization that you can only build so many 100,000 square foot buildings and 1,000-space parking lots. The economies of scale, both economically and organizationally, favor smaller groupings of people. The original and most successful model of this small-to-big idea is Yoido Full Gospel Church founded by David Yonggi Cho in Korea. Built on cell groups, Cho grew Yoido to over 700,000 members. But the church’s goal now is to start 5,000 new churches, a kind of reverse of what Cho originally did. Of course, not everyone likes Cho, but regardless of what you think of his theology, his organizational gifts are evident.
So, small is the new big as megachurches move out from their gigantic worship centers into neighborhoods, coffee shops, apartment complexes, and homes. Is this a trend, or just an isolated example of the big church to small church phenomena? Stay tuned.