As our church will continue to grow and reach out to the community one of the tensions we all will face is this feeling that we are being pulled apart. You will begin to think or hear other people say, “I don’t know everyone.” Or they might say, “It’s just different in a smaller church. You feel closer.” Or, “I don’t see everyone like I used to.” Many times when you hear that what actually is being said is, “I like a church where there are a lot of people like me.”
Carey Nieuwhof, author of Leading Change without Losing It, and minister of a church that has grown from 40 people to over a 1000, states this is a common myth especially in a churches our size. He states, “The pressure is huge. People believe the church should function as one big family.”
The picture the Bible gives of how the church should operate, or function, is not the family picture. Think about it, do you really want the church to operate like your family? If not your family, then whose? When you ask that question you get into this ideal “family” world that isn’t attainable. The Bible says we should relate to one another like we’re family (God is our heavenly Father and we are brothers and sisters in Christ) but we operate like a healthy physical body. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 says, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up the whole. So it is with the body of Christ. We all have been baptized into one body.” Then Paul goes on to use the metaphor on how the body of Christ functions like the human body.
Carey goes on, “The reality is even when our church was 40 people, those 40 people didn’t know each other—really. Some were left out, others weren’t. Even at 100 or 300, enough people will still believe they know ‘everyone’. But they don’t. When people told me they knew everyone I would challenge people (nicely) and say “Really, you know everyone? Because as much as I wished I did, I don’t.” They would then admit they didn’t know everyone. They just knew the people they knew and liked and often felt that growing the church would threaten that.
The truth is, at 100-300, many people are unknown. And even if ‘we all wear name-tags”, many of the people in your church don’t really have anyone to talk to about what matters. The one big family idea is, in almost every case, a myth.”
So here is where I end up. We need to allow God to operate in a sphere bigger than our ability to know everyone or to feel known by everyone. We should give up on the idea of this perfect church family syndrome and concentrate on what God has called us to do- Accept God’s forgiveness through Jesus, show forgiveness to each other, and give His grace into the community.