I really think focusing on church size misses the point. I’m for focusing on church impact… how are lives being changed by the Good News of Jesus Christ?
Several years ago, I wrote an article that I think will encourage you, particularly if you are in a smaller town. You may not be getting the “press” that your large city counterparts are, but I am certain that many of you are leading "high-impact churches" for the glory of God.
I believe that you can birth a high-impact church in your small town. Or you may be called to start a high-impact church in a town you’ve never visited. I’ve even prayed that God would raise up people in many of the rural and suburban areas in America to start a movement of planting high-impact churches throughout the country. Let me explain.
Definition of a HIGH-IMPACT CHURCH:
A high-impact church breaks through spiritual, social, and leadership barriers to establish new churches, new ministries, and reach new people for Christ. High-impact churches confront the law of inertia and the reality of human lethargy with a passionate, purposeful pursuit of God’s plan for evangelism in their area.
Many years ago (in 1998 to be exact), I had the privilege of helping to plant Carson Valley Christian Center (now LifePoint Church in Minden, NV), about 10 miles south of Carson City. There are only 100,000 people within 30 miles of the church. After just five short years, the church was reaching 1.5 percent of the surrounding population each week and Easter services would regularly touch 4-5 percent of the population within those 30 miles. This story is being replicated in various other smaller communities across the country.
One reason for our growth was the power of BHAGs—Big Holy Audacious Goals (a term we modified from secular literature). We felt strongly that God wanted us to plant a high-impact church. It’s been our experience that once we clearly sensed God’s dream and were gripped by a vision full of BHAGs that God would draw people to us who were captured by the same heart and vision that we had. Lyle Schaller, writing in The Very Large Church (Abingdon), says that we need many more large churches to reach people born after 1965. We believe that high-impact churches meet the need in our day.
I was born and raised in Southern California. During my time as a local church staff member, senior pastor, and denominational executive, I lived and breathed the air of metropolitan Southern California and enjoyed and benefited from the ministry of the megachurches of that region. When we responded to God’s calling to plant a church in northern Nevada, it was in part because we knew that only 5 percent of the people attended church on a given weekend. Along with much of the Northwest, that area was one of the least "churched" in the entire country.
It used to be said, in the late 1990s by church researchers, that there were no counties in America with more churched people today than 10 years ago. That statistic is being challenged across America in a number of smaller counties and communities. Why are large churches growing up in smaller towns?