Tag Archives: Tim Keller

Excellent Article on Small Church vs. Large Church Dynamics

I recently completed a research project at Fuller examining the difference between small church and large church ministry. Honestly, before engaging in that project this had never been something I’d given a ton of thought.

An article by Tim Keller dealing with this subject caught my eye today, and I found it quite insightful.

Here’s an excerpt:

One of the most common reasons for pastoral leadership mistakes is blindness to the significance of church size. Size has an enormous impact on how a church functions. There is a “size culture” that profoundly affects how decisions are made, how relationships flow, how effectiveness is evaluated, and what ministers, staff, and lay leaders do.

We tend to think of the chief differences between churches mainly in denominational or theological terms, but that underestimates the impact of size on how a church operates. The difference between how churches of 100 and 1,000 function may be much greater than the difference between a Presbyterian and a Baptist church of the same size. The staff person who goes from a church of 400 to a church of 2,000 is in many ways making a far greater change than if he or she moved from one denomination to another.

A large church is not simply a bigger version of a small church. The difference in communication, community formation, and decision-making processes are so great that the leadership skills required in each are of almost completely different orders.

And …

Every church has a culture that goes with its size and which must be accepted. Most people tend to prefer a certain size culture, and unfortunately, many give their favorite size culture a moral status and treat other size categories as spiritually and morally inferior. They may insist that the only biblical way to do church is to practice a certain size culture despite the fact that the congregation they attend is much too big or too small to fit that culture.

For example, if some members of a church of 2,000 feel they should be able to get the senior pastor personally on the phone without much difficulty, they are insisting on getting a kind of pastoral care that a church of under 200 provides. Of course the pastor would soon be overwhelmed. Yet the members may insist that if he can’t be reached he is failing his biblical duty to be their shepherd.
Another example: the new senior pastor of a church of 1,500 may insist that virtually all decisions be made by consensus among the whole board and staff. Soon the board is meeting every week for six hours each time! Still the pastor may insist that for staff members to be making their own decisions would mean they are acting unaccountably or failing to build community. To impose a size-culture practice on a church that does not have that size will wreak havoc on it and eventually force the church back into the size with which the practices are compatible.

A further example: New members who have just joined a smaller church after years of attending a much larger one may begin complaining about the lack of professional quality in the church’s ministries and insisting that this shows a lack of spiritual excellence. The real problem, however, is that in the smaller church volunteers do things that in the larger church are done by full-time staff. Similarly, new members of the smaller church might complain that the pastor’s sermons are not as polished and well-researched as they had come to expect in the larger church. While a large-church pastor with multiple staff can afford to put twenty hours a week into sermon preparation, the solo pastor of a smaller church can devote less than half of that time each week.

This means a wise pastor may have to sympathetically confront people who are just not able to handle the church’s size culture—just like many people cannot adapt to life in geographic cultures different from the one they were used to. Some people are organizationally suspicious, often for valid reasons from their experience. Others can’t handle not having the preacher as their pastor. We must suggest to them they are asking for the impossible in a church that size. We must not imply that it would be immaturity on their part to seek a different church, though we should not actively encourage anyone to leave, either.

There’s a lot more to this article as it is 15 pages long, but worth reading. To access the entire thing in a .pdf, click here.

An important question a church leader should think about: which church culture – small or large – would you fit best in as God has gifted you? The dynamics of each are drastically different, and require very different approaches as it pertains to leadership.

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Total U.S. Churches No Longer In Decline?

According to Stetzer & Bird, they’re not, and that’s great news! Stetzer & Bird report about 4,000 new churches are being planted in the U.S. each year while 3,500 are closing their doors.

From The Christian Post:

We often hear about churches closing their doors in the U.S. But some may be surprised to hear that the total number of churches is not in decline anymore.

An important shift happened in recent years, according to researchers Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird. After decades of net decline, more U.S. churches are being started each year than are being closed.

The credit largely goes to the recent increase in enthusiasm for church planting. Stetzer, who leads LifeWay Research, says church planting has become the “it” thing right now and the new evangelism … “[C]hurch planting is on the mind of North American Christians at unprecedented levels,” they write.

Despite the aggressive increase in church launches, a massive church planting phenomenon hasn’t happened yet and the co-authors are hoping to help Christians move past certain obstacles in order to orchestrate a viral movement.

That means, church planting must move from being a fad or “the next big thing” to a “passionate pursuit of the lost.”

Stetzer & Bird go on to address the hesitancy some have toward church planting:

There may be a hesitancy to having a church planting emphasis because “the thinking seems to be [that] there’s a church on every corner and most of them are empty,” state the authors, who have led and studied church plants.

But research shows that new churches fare better when it comes to drawing new people and they have a higher ratio of conversions and baptisms compared to more established churches, according to Viral Churches.

“The only way to increase the number of Christians in a city is to plant thousands of new churches,” said Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, according to Viral Churches.

Growing churches make up only about 20 percent of all U.S. churches today. The rest have reached a plateau or are declining.

“Studies have shown that, in general, churches typically plateau in attendance by their fifteenth year, and by about thirty-five years they begin having trouble replacing the members they lose,” the book states. “[A]mong evangelical churches, those under three years old will win ten people to Christ per year for every hundred members. Those three to fifteen years old will win five people per year for every hundred members. After age fifteen the number drops to three per year.”

Read the full story here.

I’m all for church planting and am thrilled about the successes, but is it really our only – as in, singular – hope?

Does a church’s “age” really determine whether or not the people making it up can tell others about Jesus?

I’m more inclined to believe whether a church is reaching people or not has more to do with leadership than age. Perhaps church plants are generally led better than older churches? Perhaps they have a vision coupled with the passion to achieve it and that’s often missing from older churches?

Could it be that the results of this study tell us every bit as much about the benefits of solid leadership as they do the benefits of church planting? Possibly so …

Anyway, I’m glad to hear this – the news is good. 🙂

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Apologetics Resources?

I’m going to spend time over the course of the next couple of months perusing the best apologetics resources out there.

Here in San Francisco, many of those I study the Bible with don’t have a basic belief in God, a trust in the Bible, or an awareness of, or belief in, core Christian doctrines.

I would like to prepare myself as well as possible for any encounters with people God may send, and would also like to be able to teach other church members to do the same.

 

Here are a few questions I’m interested in designing studies for:

  • How can the Bible be taken seriously? How do you know it hasn’t been rewritten over the years?
  • How could a loving God send anyone to hell/allow evil to exist?
  • Don’t you think it’s arrogant to say Christianity is the only path to God? Can’t God be found in other religions?
  • Do heaven and hell actually exist?
  • Was Jesus the Son of God, or was he simply a good teacher?
  • Hasn’t science proven that Christianity is a fraud?
  •  

    Here are a few resources I already own that I’ll be diving into:

  • Josh McDowell – The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict
  • C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity
  • F.F. Bruce – The Canon of Scripture
  • Ralph O. Muncaster – Examine the Evidence: Exploring the Case for Christianity
  • C. Stephan Evans – Why Believe?: Reason and Mystery as Pointers to God
  • Lee Strobel – The Case for Christ
  • Lee Strobel – The Case for Faith
  • Lee Strobel – The Case for a Creator
  • Wayne Grudem – Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
  •  

    Here are a few of good websites I’m aware of:

  • http://www.everystudent.com/
  • http://www.apologetics.org/
  • http://www.evidenceforchristianity.org/
  • http://www.apologeticspress.org/
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jxzGA-OQOk (Jacoby-Shermer Debate)
  • http://douglasjacoby.org/
  • http://thetruthtree.com/faith_qa.shtml
  • http://www.veritas.org/
  •  

    Here are a few additional books I’m planning to pick up:

  • F.F. Bruce – The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
  • N.T. Wright – Simply Christian
  • Fred Von Kamecke – Busted: Exposing Popular Myths About Christianity
  • Timothy Keller – The Reason for God
  • John Clayton – The Source
  •  

    And here are a few resource lists from TheResurgence.com:

  • http://theresurgence.com/Recommended-Reading_Apologetics-Cults-and-World-Religions
  • http://theresurgence.com/Recommended-Reading_Apologetics
  • http://theresurgence.com/Great-Books_Apologetics_Introduction-and-Methods
  •  

    Am I leaving anything out? If you know of a good resource please let me know.

     

    —-

    In other news, remember that finger I slammed in the bathroom door? That injury has born fruit:

     

    A new nail is growing underneath the old one! This is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to a fingernail of mine.

    Just thought I’d share … I know you needed to see that. :p

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