How many Churches does one suburb need?

When I was a teenager and a new Christian I went to a church in a suburb of Sydney (Castle Hill) that had quite a number of different churches – somewhere between 5 and 10.  I thought this was ridiculous.  All of these churches believed the same things on the essentials of the Christian faith – what differences of opinion they had were certainly at the margins.  I thought that we should simply have one Castle Hill Church rather than all these different churches all over the suburb.

This is an opinion on which I have come full circle as the years have gone by.  What I have worked out is that every church has its own personality.  Every church is a unique collection of different kinds of people, led by a particular leader, with a particular history and therefore has a unique personality.

Because churches have their own personalities they reach different kinds of people.  There are some people who simply would not consider going to a church with loud music but there are others who would not consider going to a church with anything other than loud music.  The multiple churches with multiple personalities can reach both of these types of people.  The more churches with differing personalities, the more we can reach a diverse group of people in our community.

If Castle Hill does have 10 churches, then I think what it really needs is 10 more.  Or 20 more.  Or more again.  If it had 20 churches then there are 20 different church personalities, and there is more possibility for someone who is being drawn to Christ to find a church home in which they can commit to.  They will be open to attending a church in which the personality of the place is in line with their own personality.

This is really just an extension of the biblical principle that Paul articulates when he says, “I have become all things to all men so that I might by all possible means save some.” (1 Cor 9:22)  Paul was saying that if someone would only hear the message of Christ from someone who observed Jewish law, then he would observe that law (even though he didn’t have to) just so that nothing could distract from someone hearing the gospel.  Similarly if the people of God in Castle Hill want to attract as many as possible to the gospel then they are wise to have 10 different gatherings with 10 different personalities, so that they might save some.

But what about unity?  Paul certainly did not plant multiple churches in the same city as far as we can tell.  (Mind you church back then was really a collection of home groups without a big corporate weekly meeting.  So I wonder how much people moved around from one house church to another.  We can only speculate, but human nature being what it is it wouldn’t surprise me if people moved around for similar reasons as they move churches today.)

I don’t think that it is a lack of unity to not be under the same leadership and the same organisational structure.  I think the Lord is far more interested in unity, forgiveness and harmony within a congregation than between congregations.  To have unity with the people that you do church with year in, year out requires genuine Christ like character – grace, love and maturity.  And I think these are what God values the most.

John

One Comment to “How many Churches does one suburb need?”

  1. Some truly awesome points here, John! The more, the merrier so that EVERY person can find their spiritual home. What a great idea!!

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