October 14, 2009
Is Jesus' presence more significant in bigger gatherings than smaller gatherings?
While reading through some online newsletters, I happened across an article that really made me think. The article was by Chip Brogden, and was titled: “Gathering: But Not for the Better!” Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“Jesus made it clear that ‘where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there I am in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20). Just two or three! I thank and praise God that Jesus did not say, ‘Where two or three THOUSAND are gathered together, there I am.’ He did not say, ‘Where two or three HUNDRED are gathered together, there I am.’ And He did not say, ‘Where two or three DOZEN are gathered together, there I am.’
Jesus also did not say where the two or three had to be gathered together. He did not specify a church building or a living room meeting. And He did not say how many times a week they had to be gathered, or if the gatherings had to be structured or unstructured, open or closed, inside or outside. By establishing His Presence in the midst of a group so small as two or three, Jesus repudiates our fascination with large numbers. Anyone can gather a crowd if you tell them what they want to hear.
May I say that a large group has no more of the presence of Jesus than a small group. The numbers are irrelevant. Either Jesus is in the midst, or He is not. If Jesus is not in the midst of us then having a large group of people will not compensate for Him not being there. I would rather sit on the living room floor with three people and have Jesus in the midst than sit in a service with three thousand people where Jesus is nowhere to be found. Of course, Jesus can sometimes be found in large groups of people, but as my wife says, He tends to get lost in the crowd.”
I think most of us would say Jesus presence in our midst in small gatherings is just as significant as in large gatherings. However, this is one of those truths that most of us accept intellectually, but struggle with in application. Why do I say that?
Consider how we view the significance of some of our “gatherings.” I was reading an email that came through promoting a small-groups conference. In one of the speaker bios it said the following: “…he planted a Church in the Midwest and transitioned it to a home group based church. When he left, there were 300 people in church and 400 in home groups.”
I don’t know if something about that quote stands out to you as much as it does me? And, it’s NOT that there were more people in home groups than in the worship service. While having the numbers reversed may not be the norm, it’s becoming less unusual. No, what stood out to me was the terminology: “there were 300 people in church and 400 in home groups.” 300 were considered “in church” and the 400 were just in “home groups.” Does that terminology say anything about how we view the significance of Jesus' presence in various group sizes?
Somehow, even in churches who declare they are small-groups based and not exclusively big-group-gathering based, the two or three gathered with Jesus (small group) still aren’t considered the “church.” We still drool over the big number gatherings, particularly the once a week worship gatherings, and our language, our promotion, and our resourcing seems to prove that out.
I could be wrong about my conclusions and I’m not trying to discount the impact or role of larger gatherings, but does our terminology reinforce the idea that Jesus shows up more significantly in the large crowd as compared to the two or three gathered? Does that thinking create any problems in how people might value small group gatherings verses large group gatherings? Just wondering. Let me know what you think.
posted by Dan Lentz on October 14, 2009 12:44 PM