Recently, Andrew C. Thompson of “Gen-X Rising” expressed his thoughts about church size. He says he does not believe that churches have to be of the “mega-church” size, like the Saddleback Church of Rick Warren, in order to be carrying out the directions of God to take his gospel to the world. Small churches can do that, as well. I agree with Andrew. The important thing is that a church has its heart in the right place.
When our small Methodist congregation is blandly reading the Wesleyan liturgy, I sometimes wonder about our hearts. We read them so often that we have the words memorized; they are part of us. And yet, we sometimes sound as if we are thinking about something else. Every Sunday, we read aloud marvelous, Spirit-breathed words of one of the affirmations of faith. The traditional version, The Apostles’ Creed, says
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen
I sometimes wonder if in John Wesley’s services, people used to read together like this. I wonder how God hears these words as they come from stiff lips. I understand that a church doesn’t have to be huge to experience Christ’s love. Some days, our hearts are dry. But many days, the Spirit is moving among us and filling us, and our hearts reach out to him.
Andrew said this in his Gen-X Rising blog:
He writes, "The essence of [Methodism] is holiness of heart and life; the circumstantials all point to this. And as long as they are joined together in the people called Methodists, no weapon formed against them shall prosper. But if even the circumstantial parts are despised, the essential will soon be lost. And if ever the essential parts should evaporate, what remains will be dung and dross."
Clearly, for Wesley the power of the Methodist approach to Christian faith is bound up in practices that allow people to experience the saving grace of Christ. That has every bit to do with the quality of a community, and nothing to do with its size.