“And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly.” (Romans 12:6).
One of the things I love about the church is the diversity I see in the body of Christ around the world. There are many different kinds of churches and each church has a specific purpose. God has given us different churches for doing certain things well. There are small churches, mega churches, country churches, inner-city churches, ethnic churches and multi-racial churches. The list could go on forever.
I once had a fellow believer ask me, “Why are there so many different kinds of churches?” (He was angry because we were planting a new church in his town.) My response was, “There are different kinds of churches, because there are different kinds of people.”
Arby’s used to have an advertising slogan, “Different is good.” I think that churches are like Arby’s. Churches are different from each other and different is good. Have you ever attended a church service and thought, “This is not for me?” There is a good chance someone else attended the same church for the first time and said, “I found my home.” And that’s why we need different kinds of churches.
It’s important that I know where I fit in the body of Christ, but it’s also important that I honor and respect what God is doing in other churches. I’ve been on staff at small churches and mega churches, country churches and city churches. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe in church growth, but I’ve been to some church growth seminars where I felt they disrespected small churches. Sometimes it comes across like “my church is the right one because we are really big.” “I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think …” (Romans 12:3).
The statistics show that 95 percent of all churches are less than 250 people. Is this necessarily a bad thing? I’m of the opinion that there will always be small churches, because there are people who will never attend a mega church and they need Christ, too.
In Exodus 18, Moses chose leaders from Israel and put them in charge of groups of 1,000, 100, 50 and 10. Some pastors are great leaders of 100, but they don’t want to lead 1,000 people. This is a good thing, because some people don’t want to be part of a group of 1,000.
Just because your church does not have thousands of people in attendance does not mean you’re not successful. Noah preached for many years but only reached seven people. I can just imagine Ham saying, “Dad, if we get rid of some of these animals we could fit more people in the ark.” God measures success by obedience; Noah was successful because he obeyed God.
“But to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function” (Romans 12:3-4).
On the other side of the coin, I get tired of people bashing mega churches. It seems like some Christians are just waiting for the mega churches to fail. I was on staff at a mega church for 17 years. During that time, I saw the church grow from 1,000 members to 9,000 members. The church was not a perfect church, but it was a really good church with some of the strongest leaders I know of. Every weekend thousands of volunteers served God by serving one another.
Mega churches are full of dedicated people who love the Lord and do church really well. If you don’t want to attend a mega church, then don’t, but that does not give you the right to say we don’t need mega churches. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:21).
Every summer I take a team of kids and teens on a ministry trip to help lead worship and drama. I strategically pick churches that are different so my kids can experience how God moves in different kinds of churches. These are some of my favorite churches that I have ministered at.
- Faith Christian Family Church in Rushville, Illinois is a church of 250 people. You’re driving down the highway through the cornfields of Illinois and the church suddenly appears. The church has literally built a youth camp on their church grounds. Every summer 900 kids and youth attend Summer Scream Camp at the church in the cornfields. The entire congregation gets involved in blessing kids that come from 50 different churches. I love this church and I love their vision for blessing kids.
- Van Nest Assembly is another one of my favorite places to visit. The church is located in a red brick building on the corner of a blue-collar neighborhood in the Bronx. The ice cream truck stops by after service on Sunday nights and provides treats as kids play in the parking lot. Van Nest Assembly has 600 people who participate in four services on Sunday, but what I love about this church is that there are 21 different nations represented in the congregation. They are literally reaching the world by reaching their neighborhood. I think Van Nest is a little preview of what heaven is going to be like as every tribe, and tongue and people and nation worship God together.
- The Worship Center is a congregation of 150 people in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The congregation meets in a humble building about three blocks from Walmart. Though few in number these people know how to connect with God. Worship Center is one of the only churches I know that asks kids and teens to be on the adult worship team. The pastor told me he invites kids to be on the worship team, because if he can teach them to fall in love with Jesus they will stay in church.
In John 17, Jesus prayed, “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.”
How can we become one when there are so many differences among us? We may never be totally united until Jesus comes back, but we can do better than we’ve done in the past. Here are some things you and I can do to encourage unity.
Know where you fit in. Unity begins with you being secure with yourself and your church home. There is no such thing as a perfect church, but God has created one that is right for you.
I once had a children’s pastor express to me that he was really frustrated with his senior pastor. “I am really organized and my pastor is not.” My response to him was, “Maybe that’s why God sent you there.” Unity is not everybody doing the same thing. Unity is doing the thing you are good at while your brother does the thing he is good at. The key is being united in purpose.
Ask yourself, “What does my church do well?” Write out a list of things in your church that you are thankful for. If you do this regularly you will not be tempted to be jealous of other churches.
Celebrate diversity. Recognize that there are other churches in the body of Christ that do things well. Write out a list of ten churches in your town that are different than yours and pray for them. It’s hard to criticize people you are praying for.
Be willing to listen to people you disagree with. If you only listen to people you agree with, you will never learn anything new. Get outside of your clique.
Stop criticizing other churches. Period.
Learn from others but don’t be a copycat. I think we’re too quick to copy one another. You’re doing some things well. Be secure enough in your own identity that you don’t think you have to copy the latest fad.
The bottom line is that there are many different kinds of churches in the body of Christ. We are different from one another and that’s a good thing. I need you and you need me. We are interdependent on one another and that’s how God designed the body of Christ.
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