When Big Is Too Big
Over the years, we’ve been exposed to a multitude of awesome business principles from successful business leaders in the church on how we can grow bigger and be more effective. I won't name names, because we all know them. Their teachings are indeed sound business teachings and have a wisdom about them. However, does success in these things aequate to Kingdom fruitfulness?
These ideas have been a part of our growth psychology for the last 20 - 30 years and have indeed yielded results for a "type" of visible growth (massive communities of Christians). Ask anyone who attends these gatherings. We definitely love them. Who wouldn’t?
Yet, effective discipleship seems to fall flat.
Statistically we’re seeing that discipleship, the primary directive of our existence as ecclesia or church on earth, is not being well accomplished from these impressive and dynamic experiences.
Since we’re into learning from business, I’d like to draw an analogy from one of the most successful business developments in today's world. Recently, articles have popped up that speak to the collision of the mega vs. the small scale. It seems, even in the business world, big can be too big!
If you're not aware, Amazon has future plans to build a massive second headquarters (HQ2) facility somewhere in the US. Amazon recently received bids from 238 cities with a dream of hosting its brand spanking new megalith, HQ2. One can already envision the emerald cities descending from the heavens upon the lucky winner of this proposal.
Weirdly, people are turning it down. Why?
On Amazon’s website is a page with information regarding this attractive proposal,
“Amazon HQ2 will be Amazon’s second headquarters in North America. We expect to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs – it will be a full equal to our current campus in Seattle. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.
Amazon estimates its investments in Seattle from 2010 through 2016 resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city’s economy – every dollar invested by Amazon in Seattle generated an additional $1.40 for the city’s economy overall.”
Who Would Turn This Down?
Who would turn this down? Apparently Little Rock, Arkansas has! The officials from Little Rock released a website as a response to the business titan.
Here it is in video form:
In some ways, (but not all) can't we can draw wisdom from this attitude in our church growth philosophies? In this reaction, smaller is preferred. Un-concentrated is more focused. Reasonable, is more efficient, and longer lasting, possibly bigger!
“My yoke is easy, AND my burden is light”.
I believe Jesus originally installed the idea that we as ecclesia (those called out to lead or serve our community) retain a sense of resource and geographic minimalism - that eventually multiplies. Little Rock turned down billions of dollars in revenue, and prestige, to maintain an idea of bigness within their "smallness."
Comparatively, I believe we were designed for this lifestyle of minimalism and servant rulership, and that it is indeed more effective for our impact in a world starved of peace and true intimacy. It is not bureaucratic, but regional. I think what Jesus intended was a call to disperse and multiply rather than attract for a concentration of resources. In this, a better version of "epic" or "mega" is the result. It takes time, but lasts much longer.
From a business point of view, Little Rock has opted for a smaller, minimalistic, and more community-oriented lifestyle. It has honored its already thriving business communities.
For us (the Church), Jesus compels us also to redefine the “monumental” as a viral spread of influence through the covering of this world. A covering of missional communities rather than towers of concentrated power and talent.
Eventually, Smaller Is Bigger
The video certainly embodies an attitude of sarcasm. It is rife with “dissent” to the "behemoth." Rather than sarcasm, I hear a generation that is tired of epic as we have known it. Weary of Amazon's brand of professional, Little Rock redefines bigness as a city that already houses a culture of creativity and vibrant businesses that serve their population, rather than Amazon's bottom line.
Little Rock clearly wants to live a simpler, more manageable lifestyle.
Finally, I believe this attitude reflects the sentiments of Jesus who at the time was living in the megalithic "success" of Rome. He demonstrated the minimal. Born in a stable, vocationally a humble carpenter. A blue-collar man. But in the end, Jesus shows us that the definition of epic is achieved through servanthood. Smallness exalts Him to an eternal position of King of Kings, with all authority under His feet.
That is truly epic!