“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”
For centuries societies in all parts of the world were largely agrarian. Most people lived in what we call rural areas. A few cities, like ancient Rome, grew to be quite large. But these were rare exceptions. Life went on this way well into the 19th century. It was the Industrial Revolution, with its’ factories and technical expansion, that began drawing people away from the farms and villages into the cities.
As production became more efficient, specialized and concentrated, the emphasis shifted from craftsmanship to maximization. This was the era of the birth of the phrase, “Bigger is better”. People in these industrializing societies were drawn to this notion like moths to a flame. As people streamed into his circus tents, awed by the big show, P.T. Barnum capitalized on this phenomenon and observed, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
When I meet someone for the first time and they learn that I am a pastor, 95% of the time the first question they ask is, “How big is your congregation.” Of all the questions that may be asked regarding the congregation, the first question has to do with size. Curious, isn’t it? Not really. After all, Bigger is better. Bigger is self-validating. Bigger equals success. Bigger means you have the right business plan. Bigger means you are giving the gathered masses what they want.
Some years ago I was introduced to a fellow during a wedding rehearsal in our sanctuary. He was attending one of the local mega-church circuses here in Southern California. His first comment to me was this; “You have a small congregation”. I replied, “Compared to what?” He looked back at me in slack-jawed amazement and didn’t know what to say. I pressed on. “Jesus said, ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.’ Jesus is here. His Gospel is here. His sacraments are here. People are here, gathered in His name. Is there something else we need? Am I missing something.” Still silent, the man looked askance at me, smirked and walked away. Of course he did. Bigger is better. Right?
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”