I am not sure when the adage “the bigger, the better” entered the American vernacular. It seems to be ubiquitous in advertising. As you might have guessed, I don’t think this is true.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better.
Like cars in tight parking spaces and on narrow roads. Or houses for those who have difficulties with mobility.
Or like church, for those who feel lost or forgotten or abandoned.
As a pastor, I hear all kinds of complaints from all kinds of folks. One that really surprised me is, “That church was just too big! It felt so impersonal. I felt so alone. How does the pastor even know who you are or what you need?” With the rise of mega-churches, I never thought I’d hear a complaint about a church being too big.
Bigger isn’t always better.
Did you know that the very first gatherings of followers of the Way (what early Christians called themselves) were held in homes? These house churches were small, intimate gatherings, where folks knew the joys and the troubles of each person who attended.
There are several passages in Acts, which is the biography of the early church, and in Paul’s epistles that mention specific persons or couples whose homes were open to believers for prayer, worship, teaching, and a meal. Lydia, Prisca and Aquila, Phoebe, Nymphas are but a few of the people mentioned whose homes were meeting places for early Christians.
These early communities are also lauded in the same New Testament texts for taking care of people within their small communities; people who were in any kind of need, knowing each other personally. Because of their mutual support, they were able to be responsive to the larger community, as well.
Although in homes, these gatherings still had form and order, and ended with a shared meal that included the breaking of bread and pouring of wine that served to remind the gathered of the death of Christ.
Emmaus Faith Community began as a group of believers who wanted to express that belief in a more intimate, inclusive, and progressive way. We began meeting in the homes of those interested in building this new community. We now meet in what was once the living room of a farmhouse.
We are a small gathering; that can be intimidating to people at first. We are a small gathering who know one another, who love and support one another, and share that love and support with the wider community.
Like those early churches, our worship follows the form and order of liturgical traditions, called Mass. We always end with the breaking of bread and pouring of wine in what is called Holy Communion or the Eucharist.
We are small, but we are mighty in prayer and faith. We have proven to ourselves that indeed bigger does not mean better, nor more faithful, more prayerful, or “churchier”.
We invite you to try small. It may be intimidating at first, but love conquers fear.