It’s only human for us to think of a venture to be successful if it’s huge in size and scope. A company has to make big bucks in order to be called successful. A person has to land a high-paying job, and wouldn’t be considered successful if there wasn’t an element of the flashy with them. When it comes to religion, most people think in the same manner. Large, resplendent churches with tall towers and marble and granite are considered the benchmark for success.
And this is where the misconception arises.
Explaining Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias is a cognitive prejudice due to which people are compelled to accept the version of information they already believe in. Even if compelling evidence against their belief exists, they will be forced to adhere to their core beliefs since they’ve believed it all their lives.
When it comes to the myth of small churches and how they’re struggling, confirmation bias works out the same way.
For centuries, we’ve seen big, lavish churches as the epitome of religion and faith, and refuse to believe that anything not covering a small expanse of land could be successful. The confirmation bias plays itself out in various ways, starting with the way people look at smaller churches.
Different Points of View
When looking at smaller churches, we’re confronted by the idea that a small church is small because it’s been making more mistakes. The layman tends to begin looking at smaller churches starting with an emphasis on their weaknesses. What nobody looks for are the signs of a healthy church—regardless of its size. For the record, here are 12 attributes that highlight the health of a church:
- Biblical Evangelism: The Church acts as a mouthpiece for Christ, welcoming and preaching.
- Biblical Discipleship: The Church baptizes and teaches obedience.
- Biblical Membership: The Church offers local membership and engages members regularly.
- Biblical Leadership: the Church is led by a pastor or an elder.
- Biblical Teaching and Preaching: The Church engages in teaching, interpretation, and preaches the word of God.
- Biblical Ordinances: The Church adheres to ordinances such as the Lord’s Supper and baptism.
- Biblical Worship: The Church offers a platform where people of the faith come to worship and are aided by the Church.
- Biblical Prayer: The Church engages in prayer.
- Biblical Fellowship: The Church allows members to share their lives and learn from each other.
- Biblical Accountability and Discipline: The Church holds members accountable when needed and offers enlightenment in relevant scenarios. Gentle rebuke toward the disobedient in accordance with Christ’s teachings is a major element.
- Biblical Giving: Not only is the Church able to sustain itself financially, but it also makes generous donations to noble causes. These donations don’t necessarily have to be monetary.
- Biblical Mission: The Church recognizes its members as disciple-makers and engages them in congregations, helping create more churches in the process.
What We Learn from This
Small churches can have a big impact on society and members of the faith if they’re successful. Humble churches doing the Lord’s work are just as successful — and in most cases, more successful according to biblical standards — than any church of fine architecture and fame. Some churches are, in fact, strategically small—Brandon O’Brien even talks about them in his book. They have come to the realization that success lies in minor things, and not in great shows of pomposity.
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