Andy Stanley Apologizes

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The conversation that needs to be had over this is not megachurch vs. small church, though that is a good topic for discussion, but What is a church? There is an image of “church” in Stanley’s proposals, a set of assumptions, that needs to set in some kind of theological context. I have lots of respect for Andy Stanley, don’t agree with all he says, and on this one I’d like to get to the bottom of what is actually going on.

“This is one reason why we build big churches. People say ‘why do you have to make them so big?’ Let me tell you why,” reasoned Stanley.

“We want churches to be large enough so that there are enough middle schoolers and high schoolers, that we don’t have one youth group with middle school and high school together. We want there to be so many adults that there will be so many middle school and high school kids that we can have two separate environments.”

Stanley then went on to criticize adults who prefer to go to a congregation that only has a couple hundred members, calling them “selfish.”

“When I hear adults say ‘well I don’t like a big church. I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody’ I say you are so stinking selfish,” argued Stanley.

“You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids, anybody else’s kids.”

Stanley’s comments garnered controversy, with sites like Pulpit & Pen criticizing Stanley’s calls for larger churches as missing other important considerations for joining a church.

“Nevermind if the church is doctrinally sound, nevermind if your kids hear the Gospel preached from the pulpit. They need to go to a large church so ‘they can make friends,’ and ‘go off to college and make friends’,” noted one Pulpit & Pen contributor.

“From his tirade against people who prefer smaller, more intimate congregations, it appears that he believes the primary function of the church is friend-making.”…

Ironically, weeks before Stanley argued that smaller churches were bad for Christian youth development, a study was released indicating that smaller churches tend to have more involved membership than large ones.

A study authored by Duke University researcher David Eagle found that the larger the congregation, the less active its membership.

“[There’s] a negative relationship between size and the probability of attendance for Conservative, Mainline, and black Protestants and for Catholics in parishes larger than 500 attenders,” read the abstract.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.