Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Size doesn't matter, the Gospel does

Jared Wilson wonders whether a fixation on size is a Texan thing. Interestingly, it would seem he is originally from Texas but has never noticed this before. Over here in the UK we've long had this stereotyped idea of swaggering John Wayne-like Texans in large Stetsons driving Oil Tanker sized cars lighting fat cigars with fifty dollar bills who boast about how big everything is in good ole' Texas :-)
Not sure where we got that idea. Maybe it was from the TV series Dallas. Anyway I wanted to raise a question about what is behind this concern with size and I don't think its a uniquely Texan thing. I've encountered it here in the UK. The numbers may be different (we would probably consider a megachurch to be one with over two hundred people!) but I suggest the underlying cause is the same.

In my opinion the idea that size matters is the product of a combination of poor theology and worldly thinking. Actually the two are closely related. There's an underlying assumption by many that size is an indication of God's blessing yet I can think of no biblical justification for that. Rather I suggest it is the product of our materialistic, performance oriented, western cultures. Now it is true that quality attracts, but the question is what are the criteria used to define quality? Good music? A great show? Some guy oozing charisma who tells funny stories and makes you feel better about yourself?

What we really need is deep, heartfelt repentance over sin and godly, Christ-exalting people who are patient and joyful in affliction. And when I say repentance I'm not talking external law keeping here. I mean the secrets of our hearts, those inward motives that we try to dress up as doing the Lord's business when its really all about making us feel good about ourselves. This isn't a popular idea in this day of sugar-coated superficiality on the one hand and cold, dead orthodoxy on the other. One thing such talk doesn't do, with one or two notable exceptions, is attract large numbers. Sadly some churches don't even mention the Word sin let alone talk about our inward desires.

What I think is really behind this fixation with size is the idolatrous belief that "I'm part of something big therefore I matter". It doesn't matter how much we might say that our trust is in Christ alone our sinful hearts will constantly be looking elsewhere for something to appease our consciences, inflate our egos and satisfy the longings of our hearts. Longings that only Christ will satisfy. What we desparately need are churches who will expose our idolatrous hearts and patiently, consistently, lovingly and constantly point us back to the cross as the only thing worth boasting about.

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