In the worldly Christian system that many consider to be ‘church’ the assumption always seems to be that bigger is better. Often the justification for building HUGE Christian enterprises is that Jesus spoke to the multitudes. I do not agree.
I believe that Jesus spent three years equipping, primarily, just twelve men to equip others to equip others. When speaking in the presence of the multitudes, Jesus had an intimate conversation with those twelve and there were thousands of eavesdroppers. I believe this because Jesus purposefully spoke in parables in which His teachings were obscured from the masses.
Let’s let the Word of God just speak for itself:
“And the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.’” (Matthew 13:10-11)
Jesus did not intend to gather a large crowd of people. The entire teaching was for the purpose of equipping a small, intimate group of men.
This story begins with Jesus sitting down near the sea. Then the multitudes come. He didn’t call the meeting. He simply sat down. (Matthew 13:1)
This story ends with Jesus sending the multitudes away. He loved the multitudes. They were not His focus at that time. His focus was on the small group of men into whom He poured himself for three short years.
“Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.’” (Matthew 13:36)
Finally, Jesus was able to get into the meat of the whole reason He brought up the wheat and the tares in the first place: to equip the very first Church leaders, His disciples. That simply would not happen with a multitude of people because it’s not personal and there are too many distractions.
When I started ministering in counseling I noticed something. I noticed that on a Monday hardly anyone could tell me what had been preached just hours before on Sunday. These were intelligent people and many of them took notes in the little programs they were given in church the day before.
For a year I asked people on Mondays and on Thursdays to tell me the topic of the sermon from the day before. Something like 95% of the people couldn’t remember.
Most of them couldn’t remember ANYTHING that was preached – not even one Scripture verse.
I was, frankly, stunned. I knew how hard and how earnestly most of those preachers and pastors and teachers had worked to craft a good sermon and I knew that they did this because they felt called to do it. Their hope was that whatever they preached would equip the people in their church buildings.
It all seemed so tragic to me.
I thought about all the sermons I had heard and tried to remember them. Honestly, there are about 5-10 things that I can readily recall that I received via sermons.
The things that have really stuck with me have come through studying the Word on my own and from teaching it to others. However, the things that resonate in me all seem to have come into my life in smaller, more intimate settings.
These almost all have to do with conversations with a handful of people, worshiping in small groups of people in which we can all see one another’s faces and in which no human is in charge.
Read the Word of God. See how many times God accomplishes much in the hearts of people when there are small groupings of people. It happens all over the Bible.
“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where TWO OR THREE are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)
There is something about small clusters of people gathering with Jesus that causes people to receive from Him in a deeper way. It RARELY happens in large groups.
This is why, I believe, so many in the Body of Christ are tempted to establish and/or dedicate themselves to being a part of something big. Satan won’t tempt us to do things that are good for us and that coincide with God’s intentions for us.
There is a kind chemical that is known as a “surfactant”. A surfactant is a substance that lowers the surface tension of water. What it does, in effect, is to cause water to be “wetter.” Detergents often have surfactants in them that help the soap to work better by getting it deeper into the fabric faster.
Intimacy in Christian meetings is, if you will, a “surfactant.”
God built us and He knows how to have a deep impact on us. This is why when Jesus came to the earth He spent virtually all His time in small clusters of people. He wanted them to receive what He had for them as quickly and deeply as possible.
When we read the accounts of Jesus speaking to multitudes, it is almost as if He can’t wait for the huge meeting to end so He can get on to His real work, which was to bring people to true belief in HIM.
“Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’” (John 6:29)
Jesus loved the people that formed the multitudes but I think the large meetings were never His primary intent. He dealt with the crowds when they were there. He fed them when they were hungry…because He had compassion for them…but I do not believe it was His will that large groups of people gather to hear Him. If He wanted that He would have had front men going before Him hustling up crowds.
He never did that. Ever.
Now, do I believe that it is sin for us to gather together in huge churches or stadiums?
No. I don’t.
I have attended such services and have even taught from many pulpits. I enjoyed being there and doing these things. It isn’t sin to do that….
I just don’t think it was ever God’s intention that we do that for Christian growth and sustenance.
It simply seems to me that Jesus modeled and encouraged something completely different from that.
It simply seems to me that most people tend to receive better one on one or in small groups and that since Jesus called the first people He did this with His disciples that true discipleship should look like that.
It simply seems to me that God is VERY personal.
So, as one who is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and who is looking for the disciples Jesus has for me to equip for Him, I intend to focus most of my efforts on doing so in small, intimate gatherings of Christians.
I would like for Jesus to be there with us in a manner in which we can sense His presence.
“…where TWO OR THREE are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
I would like for what we do to have maximum impact so that we can all be as well-equipped as possible to equip others.
This is how, I believe, Jesus has always intended His Kingdom to be advanced on the earth: through daily and small gatherings of people instead of in a steady diet of huge events that stir up emotions…and then evaporate leaving hardly anything of value behind.
Ultimately, this is a personal decision for each of us.
Not everyone is comfortable in small groups of people. I never, though, have considered “comfortable” to be an attractive Christian quality. Most of the greatest things God ever does in our lives tend to be uncomfortable.
I believe that the Lord is moving to bring us back to the original design of the Church. What looks like the culture turning against Christianity really is, I believe, God allowing this so that we can return to our roots.
In the early Church people met daily in homes…as well as occasionally in synagogues (before the persecution of Christians began), the marketplace and other public venues. The intimacy of these meetings was exciting and fruitful and generated STRONG, SPIRITUALLY HEALTHY Christians.
It’s the reason we exist as a single “church family” on the earth.
There is much to be done. Many need to be equipped. Many remain lost and need our Jesus.
In this way smaller is often better in God’s Kingdom.
Let’s all pray and ask the Lord how He would intend for us to meet, become better equipped and accomplish His work on the earth in our time.