The Rabbit and the Elephant

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There are two types of churches that seem to be growing more rapidly in the United States–the very large and the very small. A few years ago, Tony, my husband, felt very strongly that we should try and get some dialog between the two, and so we arranged a meeting for about 20 leaders from both styles of gathering to come together for two days of conversation. Northland: A Church Distributed,  in Orlando hosted the time together. Northland is a multi-site church that has consistently found ways to bless the house church movement. 

The most poignant moment occurred some time into the conference when Dan Lacich, one of the leaders at Northland shared. He effectively said, "Can you not trust me to have heard from the Lord that he is leading me to stay within the traditional church structure?"

When we feel very strongly about a topic, it's easy to assume that others just haven't seen the light yet. If only they would seek God more, he would show them what he's shown us.

Not so. 

For a long time, since we first realized that God was going to do something major with the simple/organic church movement, we have been praying that God would overturn church history. Usually when a new move of God occurs, its primary detractors are from the move that came before it. So we began praying that God would cause traditional churches to bless the simple/organic/house churches, and that we in turn would only speak well of and bless the churches we have come from. It's for this reason that we like the term "legacy" churches (originally coined by our friend Kent Smith).

A few years ago, Tony and I wrote a book with George Barna entitled, "The Rabbit and the Elephant." (This book has since been republished in paperback under the title, "Small is Big.") The obvious analogy is for small and large churches, and refers to the ability of the small to multiply quickly. Because of where the Lord has led us, the book is primarily about the principles of how to make disciples and gather them in simple/organic churches.

God is far more interested in our hearts than he is in our structures or correct doctrine. Rabbits and elephants are not renowned for cooperating together in the wild, but can we, as large and small churches and everything in between, find ways of cooperating together synergistically for the sake of the Kingdom of God? 

6 thoughts on “The Rabbit and the Elephant”

  1. Hi Felicity, Yes I believe we can. I am currently journeying with a small group exploring some LK10-2b practices, 3/4 of whom are very much “in” a congregation. One is an assistant Pentecostal Pastor, another a leader in a Womens ministry and another recently returned to a “legacy church ” after an extended time doing simple church. Our conversation is about transformation, relationship and intimacy with God through listening and sharing hearts honestly and vulnerably. Not about being in or out of a particular style of church. A word that resonates with me is “decentralize”, I am seeing God moving people around, experiencing new ways of being church and having conversations that once may have caused “issues” now opening avenues for meaningful conversations and relationships. Very exciting

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  2. Good point about us not speaking badly of the “family that raised us”. I have found myself guilty of that, probably out of insecurity as I try to defend the choice of leaving the legacy for home church. I want to be excited about how God is moving in both!

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  3. Great blog. I feel so strongly that it isn’t the structures, the organisation but fresh expressions continually born from our hearts abiding in Christ and in his love. His love in inclusive.

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  4. I really believe this a good time for the “small” churches to influence and impact the “big” churches. I’ve just started a blog at churchinacircle.com, exploring creative ways to make all church services more interactive, decentralized and effective, in this new era of connectivity and participation. The business world and education world are increasingly aware of the need to empower and engage employees and students – the church also needs to seriously reconsider whether their model of communication is working anymore!

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  5. Maree, I think we will see more of what you describe happening as people focus on the Kingdom rather than their own little part in it. As ordinary people realize they no longer need anyone’s permission to follow God in the way he is leading them, there will be an increased amount of fellowship that occurs outside the four walls of the building, whether that is an ecclesiastical structure or a house.

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  6. Kathleen
    I believe we are seeing a slow shift in many churches towards the more organic end of the church spectrum. So great to explore how to do this within a more traditional structure.

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