Not long ago, Gallup reported that church membership in the US is at 47%, the lowest ever, down over 20 points since the turn of the century. The number was 73% when Gallup first conducted the survey in 1937 and had remained constant until the 1990s.
What’s the right size for a church?
John 6 began with the story of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5000, but by the end of the chapter, the crowds had deserted. Only the disciples remained, and Jesus asked them, “Do you want to go away too?” Big crowds would again greet Jesus, but for the moment, it looked like total church membership was somewhere around 12.
But there was no record of Jesus begging anyone to stay.
In fact, the opposite is true. Jesus had just told the crowd that his followers had to “eat his flesh and drink his blood.”
It was if he was daring them to stay. And he said things like this all the time.
There was the issue of the cross, his, and the ones his followers would be challenged to “pick up daily.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 7:21-23) he warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
When he sent out the disciples (Matthew 10:22) he told them that, “All men will hate you because of me.”
Jesus surely hoped that the church would be filled, but with people who understood the cost of being a disciple.
It seems that Jesus had a different understanding of church size than we do.