The Big Church Syndrome

By John McCort

There is a growing attitude among brethren that somehow big churches are detrimental to the growth of a Christian. Many brethren will split up a congregation that is just getting on its feet to, start another congregation. What you end up with is two small, .struggling churches which are accomplishing less than if they had stayed together.

I do not know why it is that this big church syndrome is afflicting brethren. I personally believe this concept is hurting the growth of the church in many parts of the country. Those who make the accusation that big churches are less spiritually minded than smaller churches are usually people who have never worshiped regularly with a larger church. (Sometimes that suggestion is made by people who have never worshiped with a smaller group.) Many times the reverse is true. Often small churches are small because the members do not have the conviction and spirituality to work for the Lord. More often than not smaller churches are small because they have fought, bickered, and divided so much that growth is impossible. Some of the larger congregations have gained their size by hard work and good leadership.

The idea that larger congregations tend to be cold and difficult to oversee again is false. The percentage of people you do not get to know remains about the same regardless of the size of the congregation. There are definite spiritual advantages for young people in a larger group. A larger congregation affords young people an opportunity to associate with more people their own age. One discouraging factor about small churches is that teenagers and young married couples have very few people their own age with whom they can maintain social ties. It is essential to the growth of a weak Christian to maintain social contact with stronger Christians.

The teaching program in a large congregation can be more specialized. Generally, a large church has more teachers and more classroom facilities to conduct some special classes. Weaker Christians can attend classes on first principles while a wide variety of other classes can be offered to stronger Christians. Smaller groups are forced to throw them all into one class and thus some much needed specialty teaching is missed.

Financially it is much more feasible to have one large church than two small, struggling churches. Two small’ churches are going to have two building payments instead of one. Two small churches are going to have to support two preachers instead of one. Usually all outside support must be dropped and very little mission work can be undertaken. A larger congregation can usually afford a radio program, a good bulletin, and other projects that smaller churches, financially, are unable to undertake. Smaller churches can be badly hurt financially if one or two key members move and the work can be damaged while a larger group can have a more stable work and will not be damaged by a few families moving.

One of the main factors to consider is the discouragement factor. If a congregation is started without adequate financial support or spiritual leadership a small work can be very discouraging. Discouraged members in a small congregation can cause the work to stagnate. Preachers can get very frustrated when they are not baptizing as many people as they think they should. Smaller churches require more patience on the part of the preacher than some larger churches. The old adage that success breeds success is very true.

I do not believe it is very wise to break up a good, evangelistic congregation into two small struggling congregations. When a church gets large enough that another congregation can be started with adequate financial support and proper leadership without harming the existing church, then it is time to start another work. When we start new congregations we need to make sure that we are helping, not hurting, the cause of Christ.

Truth Magazine XIX: 48, p. 762
October 16, 1975