Obviously, in the samller environment: you can get to know people better; you'll get more personal partoral care; and the most important (and condesending) of all considerations, the teaching/preaching will be of more depth because people that go to bigger churches are "man" or, "self-centerd," only concerned about being entertained or having their personal needs met, and are not truly serious about indepth teaching or church life.
Well, I may have overstate the last point, but honestly, for some, it's a pretty fair representation of their assessment. Now, to be fair, not all, as a matter of fact, proabaly a majority, do not believe or say these type of things. But those that do, always seem to have a loud voice and are usually not shy about expressing their thoughts.
So, is it true? Is there any real evidence, besides the antidotal, of the veracity of these assumptions? Personally, I did not know of any such evidence or research to support the claims, and probably more importantly to my perspective, my personal experiences do not support the assumptions.
But now, real proof! "Well, not so fast my friend!"
The two articles linked below by two of the most respected researchers in the realm of church and American Christianity in our country: George Barna and Ed Stetzer, seem to suggest otherwise. You can read the full reports at the links, but essentially they are saying the accusations I mentioned above have no basis in reasearch reality. As a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite. For example:
ALMOST EVERY INDICATER POINTED TOWARDS STATISTICAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SMALL CHURCH ATTENDERS VERSUS LARGE, AND THE LARGE WIN! ..... Barna states:
- On 17 indicators of religious belief and behavior examined in the research there were statistically significant differences between churches of 100 or fewer adult attenders and churches of 1000 or more adult attenders. The only item tested in which there was not a distinction was whether the church attender had prayed during the past week.
LARGE ATTENDERS ARE MORE THEOLOGICALLY GROUNDED THAN THOSE OF SMALL CHURCHES ..... Barna:
- On all 9 of the belief statements tested, attenders of large churches were more likely than those engaged in a small or mid-sized congregation to give an orthodox biblical response – e.g., the Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches, Satan is not merely symbolic but exists, Jesus led a sinless life, God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe, etc.
ATTENDERS OF LARGE CHURCHES SERVE MORE, ARE MORE ACTIVE IN MINISTRY. ..... Barna:
- On seven of the eight behavioral measures, attenders of large churches were substantially more likely than those of small churches to be active. (These included behaviors such as attending church in the past week, reading the Bible in the past week, volunteering at their church in the past week, etc.) The average difference related to these seven behaviors was 17 percentage points.
Here is a summary of the major findings:
You can read the original report at Barna's website, go here >>
And Stetzer's summary, go here >>
Research must always be properly interpreted and put into the limited context of it's subjects. So it would be rash to jump to the balnket conclusion that all large churches (over 1000) are superior to all small churches (100 or less). Nonetheless, this study begins to debunk some of the spiritual urban legends of my ministry context, and I'm sure provides a lot of food for thought.
Any thoughts, comments, questions, ???
3 John 8