For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.
there am I in the midst of them.
I was raised in a very small conservative Southern Baptist church a few miles from our home. And often times I would go with my grandmother to her church, which was very similar to my own. Both churches had less than two hundred members. You could have combined both churches and still not have filled one of their sanctuaries. Everybody knew everybody, and I felt like I was home when I was there. I loved the church I grew up in and find myself missing it more and more with each passing day.
I am now a member of a much larger Southern Baptist church in the same area as the one that I grew up in. What made us leave that quaint little church nearly ten years ago I’ll never know. But I miss it. I feel that it was the size of the church that made it so special. When your church is so small, it is almost like the whole congregation is just one big, happy family. You know each other’s needs and you all work together to meet those needs. You are there for one another. If something happens, it doesn’t take long for everybody in the church to know about it.
We have been at the church where we are now for almost ten years now. Even after that length of time, I still do not know everybody’s names. And I am constantly discovering new people that I did not even know attended our church—people that have been members of our church for years. I find it difficult to be a functioning church family when it is virtually impossible to know every member of that family. It is sometimes a little strange when a name you have never even heard before is mentioned on the prayer list. My mom is constantly taking out the church directory to see what so-and-so looks like. Or she will often ask me “Do you know who they are”? It actually can be quite discouraging at times.
I can remember going to my grandmother’s little country church as a kid and being known by every member there, even though I did not live in the area or attend their church on a regular basis. And they did not know me as “Sue Ann’s grandson;” they knew me as Tommy. There was even one lady that called me “Little George” after my father. While I didn’t particularly care for the nickname, it gave me a sense of comfort to know that the people there were so personable. I felt like they cared about me as a person, and not just because my grandmother was a member of their church. You don’t get that feeling at larger churches.
I feel that churches nowadays are more concerned about numbers than they are about serving God and serving each other. When you visit one of these new mega churches, they have no way of knowing you were even there until they find the slip that you filled out and put in the offering plate. If you were to visit my grandmother’s church or the little church I grew up in, you would be greeted by every member, know their names and the names of all of the children and grandchildren (and probably even the name of the dog), and know their occupation and where they live all before you leave to go the restaurant that day. It would feel more like a family reunion than your first visit to a new church, and that’s exactly the way that it should feel.
About a year ago, the interim pastor of our church talked about accountability within the church. He said that the one major flaw in mega churches is that it is virtually impossible to have accountability within those churches, if only for the fact that it is virtually impossible for everybody to know everybody within those churches. Not only is accountability important, but I feel that a church family should be able to walk the journey of faith together. And you cannot walk together if you do not know each other. It is critical that members within the same church have relationships with one another, and that is virtually impossible within larger churches.
Maybe I am taking Matthew 18:20 too literally, but I long for the days of the little wooden church out on the hill. I am tired of being discouraged because I cannot find a likeminded person within my own church. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” I find it hard to believe that God ever intended for his people to go to church just for the preaching. I believe He intended for His people to know one another, love one another and to love and serve Him together. But how is that possible if we do not even know each other’s names? That is why I believe that it is imperative we return to the days of the little old wooden church out on the hill.