Despite the trends, regardless of appearances, smaller churches continue to rescue and restore broken people in the rural, small town, and urban neighborhoods of America.
1 in 10 Protestants are now drawn to robust, multisite expressions of Christian community. By contrast, on a typical Sunday 60% of the Protestant churches in America have 100 or fewer adults in attendance.
There is no reason to doubt these statistics by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research and the Barna Group. But stats and trend lines do not tell the whole story.
True, our American culture values youth and vigor. This is evident even in the Church. Where God is at work, this thinking goes, there will be growth and strength, excellence and enthusiasm.
And, yes, our culture is troubled by weakness and apparent failure. There is a tendency to dismiss smaller churches and ministries as missing the purposes of God in this generation.
But this flawed viewpoint forgets the many instances in Scripture--in fact, the consistent pattern--where God uses human weakness to reveal his glory. God's word to the apostle Paul is for everyone in a difficult pastorate, an obscure ministry, a hard mission field, or a season of distress: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Barnabas Initiatives--with this blog for mutual encouragement--is devoted to ventures that revitalize and strengthen the life and mission of these valiant Gospel outposts.