Each year Outreach Magazine lists the 100 largest congregations in America. I hate to be the one to break you the news, but we at Big Life C.C. did not make the list. Maybe next year. For those of you wondering, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, with Pastor Joel Osteen, topped the list with 43,000 people attending each weekend. So add the entire population of Oswego and Yorkville together, and you are almost there. And get me some nicely coifed hair while you are at it.
Large congregations, often called mega churches, are a relatively new American phenomenon. Yet, in the scope of Christian history, they have existed since the early church launched 2000 years ago. The book of Acts, the fifth book of the New Testament, chronicles the early days of the Church after Jesus rose from the dead. It describes multiple situations where thousands of people responded at a time by putting their faith in Christ. In Acts 2 we are told 3,000 people joined the church in one day. In fact, if you read the New Testament descriptions of Church, there seems to be an embedded expectation that God desires to see people choose faith. God wants the Church to reach new people and grow.
What is remarkable about these examples of growth in the early church is that they lacked so much of what we now deem essential to 'church'. They did not have a building, let alone a great band with creative worship. They did not have billboards that blasted to passer-byes when and where to show up. There was no google, no google reviews, and no google maps. They didn't even have Facebook. Pile on top of that the fact that it was illegal to be a Christian for the first three hundred years of the church with grave physical harm hanging in the balance. Yet this period of time is documented as the fastest period of growth and faith sharing in the history of Christianity. So how did they do it?
People lived in a such a way that other people asked "WHY?" And when the early Christians were asked why, they told them WHO. They loved so boldly, gave so freely, welcomed so indiscriminately, and worshipped so passionately that people asked WHY and were told WHO. Their very lives stirred questions and when asked they told of the difference faith in Jesus made in their lives. See, a life changed by God makes all the difference.
At Big Life C.C. we try to get the word out organizationally. We has a sharp website, a savvy social media presence, as well as a visible brand that we intentionally position into the community. But that is simply not enough - not now, and it won't ever be enough to grow this church. It fact it all means nothing unless your life is being changed by God. You, in fact, are the only living advertisement for the Gospel. And all the marketing in the world is no substitute for the kind of lives that people around us are driven to ask about.
Make your life beg the questions, WHY? and WHO?