Most Seventh Day Baptist churches [my denomination] qualify as small churches - some of them, like mine, very small indeed - and being part of a small church can be discouraging. Mark Tubbs at Discerning Reader writes an encouraging review of Why Join a Small Church?, by John Benton, which argues that membership in a small church can stretch you in good ways.
.... Benton isn’t content just to explain why it’s okay to join a small church, but explicitly encourages the reader to do so. He goes so far as to say that small churches are particularly special in God’s eyes: “In encouraging you to join a small church I am inviting you to get on board God’s agenda.” Benton extrapolates from Scripture to show how God delights in fulfilling his purposes through small things. Don’t be fooled: small things can lead to big things. He claims that smaller churches potentiallyDiscerning Reader: Review of Why Join a Small Church? by John Benton
Benton’s piece de resistance is this circular argument: Unless solid Christians seek out, populate, and serve “little and very local” churches, the light of the gospel may go out in those areas. However, small churches can hold out the offer of the gospel in an authentic, small-scale way that bigger churches cannot: “Everyone needs to become a Christian and local churches are the God-ordained means of holding out the Word of life to the community.” For all the megachurches that successfully attract scores of unbelievers and nominal Christians to their services and functions, there is a disturbing lack of discipleship and retention occurring (see Willow Creek’s recent study, published under the title Reveal). Benton claims that these problems do not occur as often in the smaller church because everyone lives in one another’s back pocket. There is no place to hide, so sanctification occurs on a regular basis, in a very upfront and personal way.
- Enjoy closer fellowship
- Will stretch you more as a Christian
- Offer you a life’s work of real significance
- Offer you the chance to confound the world
I hasten to add the following: Benton in no way advocates that one ought to join any old small church willy-nilly. Three major criteria should inform the decision:
- Is the love of Christ shown in the friendliness of the people?
- Is the teaching biblical?
- Is the church seeking to reach out with the gospel?