We make Church harder than it needs to be. I think a lot of it has to do with our size obsession. We have convinced ourselves that it’s not possible to become a great Church without becoming a big Church. But the truth is, any Church can become great, no matter what size it is. ‘Big’ and ‘great’ are not the same.
It’s hard to become and maintain a big Church. There’s a very long, difficult, complex list of circumstances that must converge before bigness can happen. It’s also difficult to become a great Church. But it’s far less complicated to become great than it is to become big. Big and great are not mutually exclusive – big Churches can be great and great Churches can become big. But they’re not synonymous, either. Not all great Churches become big and not all big Churches are great.
I remember reading Karl Vater’s Blog years ago where he addressed this issue. He said that becoming a great Church boils down to four very doable steps that can be written in one very short sentence:
Do the basics wholeheartedly and consistently for a long time.
If you were looking for something more detailed, complex or newfangled, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Actually, no I’m not. I love the elegant simplicity of it. Let’s break that sentence down into its four component parts.
1. Do the basics
Worship, prayer, fellowship, bible teaching, discipleship, evangelism, ministry. You know the list. However you break it down, it’s all about the Great Commandment and the Great Commission: Love God, love others and make disciples. Unhealthy Churches emphasize the extras. Healthy Churches drill down on the basics – and that’s what makes a healthy Church a Great church.
2. Do them wholeheartedly
It’s tempting to use words like excellence or quality, but wholeheartedly is better because it avoids the business-speak clichés that have become associated with those other terms. Greatness in the kingdom of God is different than greatness in the business world. Jesus could not have stated that more clearly than He did. You know, the first shall be last, camel through the eye of a needle, and all that. Doing the basics wholeheartedly doesn’t mean that we’ll have a suburban-shopping-mall shine on everything. It means we’ll do them with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Excellence and quality look different in small Churches than in big Churches. They also look different in the city than the country, in an old Church than a Church plant, in Asia than North America, and so on. There’s no universal standard for excellence or quality. But any Church and all Churches can do the basics wholeheartedly. Doing the Great Commandment and the Great Commission with wholehearted passion builds great Churches.
3. Do them consistently
Very few behaviours will undermine a Church’s possibilities for greatness more than inconsistency or imbalance. People need to know what a Church is all about. There’s no better way for them to know that than by doing the basics reliably and consistently. Sure, you can and probably should upgrade your methods from time to time. But methods don’t build great Churches. Doing the Great Commandment and Great Commission wholeheartedly and with reliable consistency builds great Churches.
4. Do them for a long time
There are no shortcuts. Greatness takes time. A Church can become big fast. It can even become healthy reasonably fast. But greatness takes time to simmer. Big Churches build facilities. Healthy Churches build people. Great Churches build a legacy. Some Churches build all three. But, even if your Church never becomes as big as you think it should be, it can become great: Love Jesus and love your neighbour with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Then teach others to do the same, wholeheartedly, without compromise – and never give up!