In praise of small(er) churches and multi-site churches

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I know – here is a girl who doesn’t like multi-site churches (just the focus of the entire multi-site not the churches or the people in the churches) and has been in a large church ever since 10th grade.  What am I thinking with a title like that.

Community.  Life on life.  And no, it isn’t a given for every church that is small or every campus of a multi-site church, but it seems to be more prevelant than in larger, commuter or regional, multi-service churches.  Let me explain my reasons:

1.  Proximity helps with life on life living.  Since I have moved several times since being an adult, I have friends all over the place.  Having friends who are missionaries helps in knowing people all over the world.  But, it is harder to keep in contact with and build community with people who live far away.  Not impossible – just harder.  Some of my dearest friends live in KY or FL or TN, and when I see them it is a great joy and benefit to my soul and life, but day to day life on life living is impossible.  With smaller churches, it is easier because mostly these are community based churches that all come from a small town or a part of town in a larger metro city.  At campuses from multi-sites, these campuses are usually positioned in different areas of a region or city that make it easy for community to form around the location.  My husband and I desire to live life with people who know us genuinely and can pop over for dinner or a movie night or breakfast or a walk without having to clear schedules and plan something for next month. 

2.  Zip codes help you do ministry better.  I just didn’t know of a better title.  Living in North Durham is hard for me because some of the different parts of this area of town are not really safe for a female to go through at different times of the day (or any).  But, I have a sticker on the back of my car that says I Heart Durham.  I love where I live.  It is so neat to be able to drive 2 miles to my local coffee shop, hang out with friends who live the next street over, shop at local grocery stores, or actually pop in to my women’s clinic instead of calling them because its quicker.  But, here’s the thing – the friends that I have in my “neck of the woods” all go to different churches.  That is why I love the bigger idea of the body of Christ.  When I was growing up in north Lakeland, we went to a church in Plant City ( a 15 minute drive).  It was a small church and outside of school friends, these are the people we did life with.  But, our lives consisted of church camp, 5th Sunday dinners, and church services.  We didn’t do much else with them.  I long for the days that we have people in our home that are our friends and don’t have to drive an hour to get here.  I long for authentic community. I do have it with friends who go to various churches.  What would it take to make that happen?  I know friends that attend a campus of a local multi-site church that have owned their street.  They have bbqs with both neighbors that aren’t Christians and church members.  They love their street!  They live down the street from their campus.  I know other friends of same multi-site church that pray for the teachers of the school their church meets at because that is also where their kids attend school.  What an impact they can have! 

3.  Don’t neglect the neighorhood around your church.  There is a local church I drive by often that is made up of a certain type of people who don’t fit that neighborhood at all.  It is a commuter church by all means.  But, there is no real ministry going on in that neighborhood by that church.  Our churches suffer when its members don’t live within proximity of its locale.  When members are spread everywhere (whether in large metro cities or probably even in “olden” days when you had to travel by horse and buggy to get to church) it is very hard to have authentic community with its members because you only see each other on Sunday.  Your kids don’t go to the same school, don’t play on local sports teams together, you don’t visit the same library or coffee shop or local eatery.  It is very much a spread thin, segregated life.

Do you like authentic life on life living or does that scare you because of its intimacy or the fact that you might have to always have your home clean just in case someone pops over.  I LONG for it.  I love the dear girlfriends that I have and couples that I know that when I see them you know the friendship is rich and authentic and they pray for you.  It would be much better if we all lived in the same zip code and attended the same church!

I think of Acts 2 for this but also just remember deep thriving times of life on life living: 

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
(Acts 2:42-47 ESV)

Authentic community in the life of a church is something I think that is crucial to the proclamation of the gospel.  Just my two cents worth this Monday afternoon! 

And to all my friends out there that live life with me, pray for me via text or email or phone call or blog, thank you. You are loved and cherished!