Michael J. Brooks Guest Columnist
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The rise of the neighborhood church

I met her at a conference in our state, and she quickly turned the conversation to her church, of which she was very proud. She loved the pastor, the members, the worship and the ministry. All of this is fine. Then I asked her where her church was located. I knew where she lived and was surprised that her church was 40 miles away

Our denomination has traditionally supported members belonging to local churches through which they can serve their communities. The Church Covenant that evangelical congregations used to display states: “We moreover engage that when we remove from this place we will, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.”

This lady’s church was a megachurch, defined as having 2,000 or more on a Sunday morning. Megachurches are a baby boomer phenomenon and comprise about one percent of American churches.

Current research reveals a new trend, namely the neighborhood church.

The neighborhood church may be named for the community, and may be on a few acres in the middle of the community. It owns land, maybe three or four acres, but probably won’t buy 40 or 50 acres and relocate to a major highway interchange for visibility. But a church doesn’t have to be large to be healthy. If a church interacts with its community and shares the gospel, it is fulfilling the biblical mandate.

Sam Rainer of Church Answers published a book earlier this year called “The Surprising Comeback of the Neighborhood Church.” He doesn’t suggest that any neighborhood church will grow without effort, but that with proper ministry can be strong and healthy.

America is a small church culture. The median attendance at American churches is 75 on Sunday mornings. By some standards these are small churches. but small doesn’t mean insignificant since “small” is a relative term. And smaller churches can be flexible by offering other services at different times without building another structure.

Another researcher calls these “normative-sized churches.” The normative-sized church fosters relationships. It’s hard to enter one of these and remain anonymous (though some worshippers prefer anonymity). And it’s hard to be a member of a normative church without serving since everyone has to pull the load. In fact, in the normative church we have to try to limit responsibility or else members may have more than two or three!

We need churches in every community to stake claims for Christ. And we need churches of many sizes to do the work of ministry.

Size is not a judgment call but a relative term.

As the old hymn states, “Every work for Jesus will be blessed.”

Reflections is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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