Is ‘Big Church’ healthy? Does size matter?

At our church in Fort Collins, Mill City, the pastor, Aaron Stern, has been leading a series the past few weeks called “Our House,” which talks about the history of the church, the concept of church in today’s society, and most importantly what the Bible has to say about the church.  This week we had a guest speaker give the sermon.  Beau Johnson is an associate pastor at Mill City Church that always has some great points and thought provoking comments to make about whatever the topic!  Here is the summary from today’s service.  You can hear the full sermon and the rest of Mil City’s sermon’s here or by going to millcitychurch.org!

To summarize the series: church isn’t just a building or an event you go to on Sunday mornings, it’s a house that God wants us to be involved in.

Mill City Church is young, and by that I mean, the first service in Fort Collins, CO was in February 2012 – only a year and a half ago! Each week though, God is sending more and more people to join our church family, our community, our house.  Mill City Church is growing! The question for today’s sermon though is: Is getting big healthy? 

Most people have their instinctive opinions about “big church.”  We have all experienced a church that you get swallowed up in, which can lead to a dislike for “big church,” because it seems so impersonal  But what Beau challenged us to do is: “Don’t critique or judge getting big. Look the “bigness” right in the face.” And ask, “What does big really mean?”

So, here we go!

Matthew 16:16-18 (NIV) says, “Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it.””

Well, if you’re going to go big, go really big!  Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of Living God… and he is the one building his church! That statement by itself is HUGE. It’s not you building the church. It’s not me. It’s not the pastor on the stage or the priest in the pulpit.  It is Jesus, the Son of the living God, who is building HIS church.

“The Church is a big idea. Because Jesus is a big idea. And because Jesus gives his disciples a big task.”

In Acts, Jesus describes how big of a task he is giving the disciples.  Acts 1:7-8 (MSG) states, “He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”

Imagine if Jesus came to us and said, “…you will be my witness in Fort Collins, all over Colorado and Northern American, even to the ends of the world.” Yeah, that’s pretty big too 🙂  The church is a big idea, and it will expand. It started with 12 disciples and it has grown across the world to nations with 90+ different languages.  In Acts 2:21 (NIV), it says, “Everyone who calls on the name of The Lord will be saved.”

Here is another example of ‘big church’ in the Bible.  In Acts 2:41-47 is the story of the 3,000 who were baptized… imagine that in present day. How many kids rooms would we need from one week to the next? How many new greeters? How many overflow rooms? How many extra chairs? The Church basically went from meeting in a living room to needing a stadium! And that was just one day.

Now to transition just a little bit, it is one thing to agree and say, yes, we agree with you, Jesus that the church should probably be big. But what does is truly mean to be a disciple? Great question.

In John 13:34-35 (MSG) Jesus states, ““Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” Well, that sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Love one another, cool! I’ve got it. But what does it really mean to live out your love for each other?

The first part of loving one another is building relationships with one another.  The church is not just based out of a building or a temple, it is based out of homes.  “Faith is centered on two places: temple and homes,” as Beau put it.  To love one another in the old church knew they needed to meet and know each other in their homes. Meeting at the temple was important, but they had to eat with each other and know each other in order to love each other like Jesus loved.  This is such a critical part of today’s church as well! We need our small groups and relationships to truly know each other and love each other.

It’s a great first step to agree with Jesus. But how do we actually DO what Jesus said? How do we love one another despite the chaos of life? Despite our differences? Jesus directs us to do the following:

Submit to one another.
Honor one another.
Bear with one another.
Forgive one another.
Accept one another.
Care for one another.
Encourage one another.
Restore one another.
Love one another.

Most of this cannot happen on Sunday morning. We have to be in each other’s lives daily.

“We, the church family, want to get bigger for the sake of eternity and smaller for the value of each individual.”

I know at Mill City, Tom and I have found such a great community. Even though the church is growing I feel valued as a person. But, I know that if I wasn’t involved in a City Group that I wouldn’t feel this way!  It is through the City Groups that I have grown the most.  I have grown because others have shared their messes, and we have shared our messes, yet we are still there for each other, serving one another and loving one another despite the chaos of life.

“Let’s share our messes so that we can see grace move in each other as light is shed on our mess.”

“Is big church healthy? Size doesn’t have anything to do with health. Health has everything to do with our relationships.”

Are you submitting to one another? Are you letting others go first? Are we honoring one another in how we speak to each other? Are we caring for one another? When was the last time we went out of our way to appreciate and love on someone else? How are you loving each other as Jesus loves?

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Picture from Sky’s baby dedication outside of the University Center of the Arts, where Mill City meets every Sunday!

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