“Whatever size of church that you serve in, may I encourage you to be faithful. I do not believe that the size of one’s congregation is ever a focus in any New Testament passage. The way I understand my Bible, every church is precious to our Lord as we collectively make up His church.” Dr. Joseph Bunce, Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico
Common sense wisdom from a common sense Southern Baptist leader. It seems that common sense, whether at airports or churches, is in short supply these days. Going against the grain of American culture and Southern Baptist culture, Dr. Joe (as we call him here in NM), as only he can, shines a questioning light on the oft-heard mantra, “Bigger is always better!”
From your friendly local fast-food establishments to the newest mega or multi-site churches, the message is the same: big is today, small is so yesterday. After all, why have small and medium-sized churches when you can buy basketball stadiums and convert them into huge
theaters churches? Why have 10 smaller churches when you can have “one church in 10 locations,” whatever that means?
But, not everyone is buying into the “bigger is always better” mentality. According to Dr. Joe Bunce, this philosophy of doing church has become a “disorder”:
“There is a new disorder that is overtaking the thinking of Christian America. We live in a super-sized culture that has been duped into thinking that bigger is better. This phenomenon has even spilled over into the model describing the church. Yes, there is a place for large mega-churches, but there is also a place for small rural churches.” (read Dr. B’s full article here)
If you don’t think the culture has been duped, then the next time you are at your favorite fast food restaurant, try ordering a “small” drink. There is no such thing as small anymore. The small is now the medium, the medium is now the large, and the large is now the extra-large. And, the next time you are at a big time Pastor’s Conference, see how many pastors of small and medium-sized churches are on the program.
In his address at the BCNM’s Annual Meeting in October, Dr. Joe shared with New Mexico Baptists how churches of all sizes, but particularly small and medium-sized churches, are making a Kingdom difference. In sharing his vision for Southern Baptists in our state, Dr. Joe encouraged every church, regardless of size, to “hoe the row” that we had been given.
When we pull together and cooperate for the sake of missions and ministry through the Cooperative Program, Dr. Bunce and New Mexico Baptists believe that we can do far more together than we can separately. This doing more together means partnering with one another to not only reach our state with upwards of 90% lostness, but also cooperating together with other Southern Baptists to reach North America and the World with the Gospel of Christ. While there may be many good ways to cooperate together, the best way remains churches giving through the Cooperative Program to fulfill the Great Commission. As one former SBC President said, “The Baptists’ best bounce for their Baptist buck is through C.P. [the Cooperative Program].”
Even though New Mexico Baptists may not foward 50% of their CP gifts to Nashville, I don’t think that you can call the churches of the BCNM “myopic and territorial” when it comes to carrying out the Great Commission. Well, I guess you could, but that will not play well in the Land of Enchantment, Peoria, or many other places within the SBC family of churches!
And just who is that family? Overwhelmingly small and medium-sized churches. The SBC is a large convention of churches, but the churches of the convention are themselves not large. Dr. Bunce, using the latest figures from the 2009 Annual Church Profiles of Southern Baptist Churches, reminds us that:
• In the SBC, there are only 169 churches that would be classified as “mega”-churches with the standard being those that run over 2,000 in attendance.
• 66.16 percent of all Cooperative Program giving comes from churches that run less than 499 in attendance.
• 93.87 percent of Cooperative Program giving comes from churches that are not classified as mega-churches.
When it comes to reaching New Mexico, North America, and the World for Christ, we need every church, regardless of size, cooperating together for the sake of the Great Commission. And, when that happens, smaller churches can have a disproportionate Kingdom impact through God’s great blessing called the Southern Baptist Convention. That’s something that we can all be thankful for this week!