There are big churches—but this post is not about large buildings and lots of people. There is the political big tent, which tries to draw together all sorts of people with diverse viewpoints. There is the Big Ten and the big top and the big bang theory and the Big Gulp—from which Mayor Bloomberg wants to save New Yorkers. This post is about none of those, though perhaps Big Bang is closest.
This post is about Big Church.
It’s not about size so much as messaging. Not about authority so much as a disbursing of gifts, talents, passions and mission. Not about one person’s vision and that person’s ability to pull others with him or her so much as it is about a silent listening of many to One, and each responding in kind.
Sometimes we need to state what something isn’t to figure out what it is (a kind of apophatic attempt, you might say).
I’m stuck on a quote from an old dead guy who wrote letters trying to help his readers recognize the big church already at work among them. I wrote about a couple of this guy’s quotes here, and I’ve started with all the “this is not’s” because I’m convinced we mostly don’t see what this old dead guy was saying. That is, we don’t see it, though it is there and vibrant and alive in ways that are still largely invisible to us.
Big church is an entity that communicates persistent care through all its parts. We may think the pastor is the voice of the church, but that’s not so. The pastor is one voice. But the voice of the church looks like words and action. It looks like words and action that extend deep into the work week, far beyond Sunday morning. Big church lives out a redemptive message while embedded in culture and work and relationship. And big church is constantly inviting. But not inviting to a place or a political party. Or to put on a narrow (or wide) filter. Big church invites people into relationship. And it invites people already in relationship to go deeper.
All this because the individuals who comprise the big church routinely step out of self-created subcultures—we’ve done so for centuries—as seasoning for the broader culture. Stepping out carrying God’s passion for other individuals, in all the many ways God has in mind. Big church seamlessly folds in “together” and “apart.” That’s why church is big. And certainly much bigger than a place you go for an hour on Sunday.
Image Credit: OBI Scrapbook Blog