Tag: john zogby

This attitude toward small churches doesn’t help

I started to let this go. First, because you can’t comment on everything you read in blogs; and, secondly, I could not believe I was actually reading it.  But, I can’t let this go.  Here’s why:  Small churches deserve better than Bill Easum’s recent response to Tony Jones at Emergent Village.  

Easum critiques the emerging church community because most of its churches are small.  Tony Jones asks Easum to explain why he is critical of small churches, and here’s part of his response:

“You have to put this in the context of my experiences with small churches and my understanding of evangelism. Small churches are usually small because of their small, petty attitude. That attitude can be negative, it can be elitist, it can be mean-spirited, or it can be just plain content with the status quo. But I have never found a small church that has been small for many years to be a healthy environment.”

Ouch and wow!  Okay, I’ll try to keep this rational and courteous, but for the life of me I can’t imagine why anyone, much less a leading church consultant, would make that statement.  Almost 90% of the churches in America are small churches.  Are all those churches “negative….elitist….mean-spirited..content with the status quo”?  The answer clearly is a resounding No!  

But, Easum quotes scripture, or at least refers to it, to make his point…

“My experience has been if the church is faithful to the Gospel it grows—period. I could say the same thing about a house church or small group. I base this on the Book of Acts—it is about the growth of Christianity and suggests to me that God wants the church to grow and spread. Read the story—it goes progressively from addition, to multitudes, to myriads of growth.”

Of course, if Easum had read Rodney Starke’s book, Cities of God, he would know that Christianity actually grew at about 3.4% per year for the first 300 years.  So, Easum overstates the growth of Christianity, and fails to note that many of the gatherings of Christians in the book of Acts were small gatherings.  

But, more disturbing is Easum’s contention that there is something wrong with small churches by virtue of their smallness.  In The Way We Will Be, John Zogby, of the global polling firm Zogby International, writes…

“The church of the future will be a bungalow on Maple Street, not a megastructure in a sea of parking spaces.  It’s intimacy of experience people long for, not production values.” -p 215.

Small churches thrive with the attributes that many people seek — intimacy, hands-on ministry, an opportunity to participate, and the ability to know other members.  It is the kingdom of God whose growth we seek, and for God’s kingdom to grow each community of faith plays a different and vital role.  I’ve seen more church pathology in churches who value growth at any cost than I have in the small churches I’ve encountered.  

Easum owes small churches, small church pastors, and members of small churches an apology.  Or at least the opportunity to hear our stories, walk in our shoes, and witness first-hand the effectiveness of ministry in America’s small churches.  What do you think?  Am I wrong, or do you have a different perspective?

Zogby: Small, real churches are the future

Today I bought pollster John Zogby’s new book, The Way We’ll Be, subtitled, The Zogby Report on The Transformation of the American Dream. Called a “super pollster” because he uses innovative methodologies in his polling work, Zogby sees a very different future for the US than you might imagine.  Here’s what he says about the future of the church:

“The church of the future will be a bungalow on Maple Street, not a megastructure in a sea of parking spaces.  It’s intimacy of experience people long for, not production values.” — The Way We’ll Be, p. 215.

In a previous chapter, “One True Thing,”  Zogby says that people are “searching for authenticity in a make-believe world.” That’s what will drive the tremendous growth of house churches in the coming years, especially among the demographic he calls ‘First Globals” which others label Millenials.   Zogby quotes one house church enthusiast, “What is so exciting about doing small-group house church is just the chance to be real.”  Authenticity, not high production values, is what First Globals are seeking.

If you want an excellent book to give you a professional pollster’s take on where we’re headed as a nation, especially in understanding First Globals (Millenials), buy Zogby’s book.  If you’ve read unChristian or They Like Jesus But Not the Church, you need to read this book, too.  Add to your reading Strauss and Howe’s books on Millenials such as Generations, The Fourth Turning, and Millenials and the Pop Culture, and you’ll be well on your way to understanding developing trends in our society.