Why it’s Time to Start Microchurches
Honor Jesus together while sharing love to others. That’s church.
If you haven’t noticed, the Covid-19 pandemic is accelerating global trends that were already starting to materialize. Reliance on technology to work, educate, and socialize — accelerating. Gap between the ultra-wealthy and the poor — accelerating. Hyper-individualism leading to an epidemic of loneliness, emotional and mental illness, and suicide — accelerating. Even trivial trends like dwindling attendance at sporting events are now the new normal.
What about the church? What trends were in place before the pandemic that are now being accelerated?
The church already had a crisis of leadership. There’s a problem when the metric for pastoral success is the size of your social media platform and how many copies of your latest book are being sold. Did Jesus tell his disciples to “Go and make Instagram followers of all the nations?” Now that the only available platform is online, the strategy to build a “brand” as a pastor or church leader seems like the only sensible option.
There was also a crisis of non-participation and people leaving the church. Much like the gap between the very rich and the poor, megachurches were getting larger while overall church attendance was dropping. Now, as larger churches are planning for a post-Covid world, the question is will people come back? Now it’s normal to watch Sunday worship on the computer from home. Do I have to watch my local church’s service or the pastor I really like somewhere else? Actually, why do I have to watch at all? Sunday morning is a great time to hit the beach.
The good news is there was also a trend towards renewal. Followers of Jesus around the world have been fasting and praying for the church to find its first love once again. It’s out of that cry for renewal that I believe a movement of microchurches will be born.
When Jesus commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses throughout the world, he didn’t want them to go alone. The mission was meant to be carried out together. He also didn’t tie them down to a place or a building. In fact, just when the infant church started to get comfortable in Jerusalem with the temple nearby, persecution scattered them and the good news about Jesus spread. They learned that they were the temple whenever they met, which is still true today.
There are really only three prerequisites for church: Worship, community, and mission. Honor Jesus together while sharing love to others. That’s church. It’s elegantly simple and incredibly diverse. Also, you don’t need any special skills to do it well! God has given us, just like he gave the early church, everything we need.
I’m drawn to the language “microchurch” because it demonstrates that the church’s essence can exist in a small, mustard-seed-like package. We don’t need huge buildings, sound systems, and crowds to carry out Jesus’ mission. I believe that in the wake of Covid-19, the door is open for microchurches to become an essential expression of church for the next generation.
Brian Sanders, in his excellent book, Microchurches, A Smaller Way, presents this challenge:
“What makes the church truly unique in the life of the people of God is that we are now meant to hold our place in the wall together, in teams of people who worship like monks, live like family, and engage the world like missionaries.”
The invitation we have before us is to learn how to be the church together. A movement of microchurches in a city or region could fundamentally change the way people live. In a time of radical uncertainty, microchurches could be be little outposts of Kingdom hope in neighborhoods, workplaces, and campuses. Loneliness could be alleviated. Money could be funneled to the poor, homeless, jobless, and help fix broken places in the world. Christians crying out for more than just another sermon on a screen could be satisfied.
This is not a mere dream. My wife and I lead a microchurch like this and I know many others that have started them as well. There are movements starting to pop up all over the world. The question is will others have the courage, or maybe desperation, to join us? I have been praying that God would wake the “sleeping giants” in the church, those who carry deep wisdom and powerful gifts, but who have been hurt or wounded and are hiding. I have also been praying for renewal to break out among those who have left the church or are drifting because they are hungry for more.
Starting a microchurch just takes a dream or idea and a few willing people who love Jesus. There are great resources available to help you get started and refine your dream into reality. Even if you are the only group in your whole city, there are ways to stay connected to others who will help and support you along the way.
If you are deeply connected to a local church or already called to lead another expression of church, wonderful. This article is not for you. I am writing to the people who have for too long felt like square pegs trying to fit in a round hole. You know that a movement of microchurches is not only possible, it is necessary. You know that God has called you to lead and create an environment where people can flourish. You know that broken people don’t need another program or inspirational YouTube video. But most of all, you know you need a spiritual family. You can’t be a follower of Jesus alone. We need each other. Will you join us?
Mike and Amber Bishop live in Jupiter, Florida and have started a non-profit organization called Everyday Mission dedicated to building a network of microchurches, prayer for renewal, and funding Kingdom ministry.