A Wee Church
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. He turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate their family, yes and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:25-27 (NRSV, adapted)
Jesus would have benefited from a book or two on church growth.
If so, he might not have torpedoed an impressive, growing entourage with impossibly high requirements like, “Hate your family, hate your life, exchange all your worldly possessions for a cross.” It’s almost as though he was shooing people away!
Well, yeah. He was.
Look at the first line: “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. He turned and said to them…” Did you catch that? Large crowds traveling, not following. So Jesus laid it down. He culled the rolls, separated the mesmerized masses from the faithful followers. He apparently wasn’t into big church. His ego didn’t need it.
Most churches in the United Church of Christ have less than 100 people in attendance on a Sunday morning. Often far less. Despite the financial and organizational challenges that come with modest-sized memberships, small church (or small groups within a big church) might be the sweet spot.
Sure, a big crowd feels nice, but a wee community of committed people is all Jesus wants.
Jesus, I’m failing on a few requirements, but I’m leaning on you, on the disciple to my left and on the one to my right, for grace along the way.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.