When one minister meets another, a question often asked is, "How big is your church?" The replies then establish the pecking order. The minister with more members has the greater status.
When you ask ministers of the gospel for their God-given vision, it will often be focused around increasing the numbers of people in their churches.
Yet the reality is that 90% of churches worldwide that effectively involve the un-churched, point them to Jesus and disciple them, would be humble churches and leaders that have less than 100 members, with the majority having less than 50, according to reliable research.
The reason why we assess our congregations by numbers and budgets, is because in many cases our visions for our churches are based on human, worldly dreams, rather than Christ centred, Biblical and humble dependence on what God gives and provides.
What is God's way? What are we really called to do? What does the Great Commission actually say?
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20.
Jesus did not say that we get everyone in your neighbourhood into the same constituted church. He said we must make "disciples", for it is only disciples who will "obey everything Jesus has commanded."
Jesus, although he also spoke to large crowds of people, only trained 12 male leaders and discipled them. Jesus also equipped women disciples, but according to the culture of the times, they weren't listed in the NT in the same way as their male counterparts.
We simply find godly women all over the NT humbly serving the gospel.
It is impossible to disciple people in large groups. Growing disciples is a relational activity. Mentoring individuals. Growing cell groups. Befriending and coaching within a personal trust relationship. This is the effective way for a minister / pastor, an elder, a small group leader or a fellowship group to 'shepherd' God's people according to the example of Jesus’ own ministry.
God is calling on his church to discard the worldly philosophies inherited from business models that 'bigger is better’! And don’t forget that those business models are driven by greed, entitlement and a desire for power and fame and not by caring for people.
The Biblical message to the vast majority of ministers whose churches are not growing into 'mega-churches', is take courage.
The Lord first and foremost desires you to encourage your people to a deeper commitment to the Lord. It is the result of your pastoral commitment to making disciples that will let you hear the Lord say, "Well-done, good and faithful servant'".
Let’s put aside the ways of worldly business-model philosophies and return to the evangelic vision in the NT - of discipleship, of deeper commitment and love and humble submission and obedience to the great commission to disciple and coach individual witnesses for Christ Jesus.
Mega-churches with sound teaching and reverence, are also not trapped by the vision that grand entertainment results in better followers of Jesus. They too are teaching and imitating the humility Jesus required from his followers, motivated to serve and responding to the promises of grace with faith, rather than being bemused by the heretical belief that God’s work can be accomplished through the potential of mere human effort.
But in these churches there will always be true shepherding of individual believers by enough faithful ministers, elders and ministry leaders.
There are more small and medium size churches, resisting the temptation to provide expensive entertainment and the worldly dream of mega-budgets instead of sincere worship, that brings Christ’s followers to learn everything Jesus taught – especially selfless, sacrificial love and humble service. These are the real indicators of truly good and faithful shepherding.
Never forget the warning in the Book of Revelation to the Laodicean church:
Revelation 3:15-20 - I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’, but you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
The power of humble churches lies in warm, passionate, loving one-on-one discipling.