Neil Cole has a three part response to Dan Kimball’s Missional Misgivings. There is some lengthy exchange that covers very little distance in their multi-comment conversation; however, this gem emerged from Cole’s final post:
A global survey conducted by Christian Schwartz found that smaller churches consistently scored higher than large churches in seven out of eight qualitative characteristics of a healthy church. A more recent study of churches in America, conducted by Ed Stetzer and Life Way Ministries, revealed that churches of two hundred or less are four times more likely to plant a daughter church than churches of one thousand or more.
So churches of 200 plant more often than churches of a 1000, but they will have to plant 5xs as many churches to reach the one thousand of the megachurch. Methods, methods, methods. We are in the wrong debate. We don’t need to be debating mega vs. micro, attractional vs. organic/incarnational. This is a methods driven conversation, and if we have learned anything from the history of missions it is that God uses a variety of church models to bring in the lost sheep of his kingdom. For a moment, just stretch the conversation beyond America. House churches are immensely effective in China and mega churches incredibly effective in Korea. When it comes to methods, context is king, unless your contextualization of the gospel compromises the its theological integrity, in which case it is no longer contextualization but syncretism.
What we need to be debating is the strength of the gospel that is being preached, taught, shared, and shown in our churches. Are we incarnating and attracting people to a diluted gospel or a strong gospel? Are we incarnating kitsch gospel or kerygmatic gospel? In the end, what are we calling people to? Is our gospel both missional and communal or inward and individualistic? If the latter, then something is wrong with our gospel. Let’s stop debating methods and start debating gospel. Let’s refine the gospel seed we are sowing in America for the sake of our country, our future, and our Lord.