Last week we had 39 people at our church gathering. That’s a lot of folks to fit in a living room. It was wonderful to spend time with everyone, but I wonder if we’ve gotten too big. In fact, one of my good friends brought up the very issue as we met. We’ve decided to pray about it and not make any hasty decisions. However, we’ve sort of been avoiding the issue for some time. That’s not to say that we have to or even need to multiply/divide/split in some way; rather, we simply haven’t really talked about it.
This question, of course, immediately leads us to scripture and forces us to ask why we even meet in the first place. Ideally, Christians get together throughout the week so that the Sunday gathering is not the epicenter of church life. Despite this, with work schedules being what they are the reality is that the Sunday gathering is very special. That said, why do we meet?
Biblically speaking, followers of Christ normally gather to honor God through mutual edification. This is not to say that every gathering must be for this purpose. Rather, this ought to be the norm.
We’re all familiar with Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” I believe the most significant aspect of these verses is that they tie together the assembling with meeting for the purpose of edification.
In order for edification of all by all to take place, everyone must feel free to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. This usually involves at least talking to others. In fact, edification almost always involves speaking of some type (along with other things).
A body of believers should, therefore, be a size that is conducive to people talking with one another. If the group is too large for this to happen, then “Houston, we have a problem.”
Last week as we gathered, I noticed times of freedom in speech. I also noticed times when only some seemed comfortable talking. Not surprisingly, the differences depended on the structure of what was happening. When we were all sitting together sharing with one another as a full body, the group just felt too big for everyone to share. In fact, although we had solid participation, many of the folks didn’t say anything at all. However, when we were all just hanging out in smaller groups (ranging in size from roughly 2 – 8), everyone appeared comfortable talking.
Our group’s size has also reduced the number of homes we can gather in. For example, our family simply cannot host anymore on Sundays. Because of my current work schedule (65 hrs. per week), it is very difficult to have anyone over during the week. Therefore, we aren’t really hosting anyone right now. I wish that could be different. As for Sundays, only a few families are now able to host; this puts an unfair burden on them.
Have we as a body reached the point of being too big? I’m still not sure. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this issue. Additionally, I’d appreciate hearing about if you have gone through a church division (in the good sense), how it happened, and what the result was.