It seems to be human nature to emphasize and think highly of large numbers of people, in particular as it relates to churches. After all, if such a large number of people believe or do something, it must be a good thing. Right? Actually, not really. Nowhere is this more important than in religion. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who believe if something is very popular and has a lot of followers, it must be good. In reality, it is just the opposite.
In regard to the Lord’s people, the faithful seem to have always been a percentage of the perceived people of God. Not all of Israel was faithful, only a portion. Consider what is perceived as “Western Christendom.” We as members of the body of Christ are an extremely small percentage. In the so-called “evangelical community,” the churches of Christ make up a small percentage. Even among the number of churches of Christ, those of us who believe the brothers of a congregation are to be the public teachers of that body are a very small percentage of that number. Among the congregations that practice the mutual edification of the saints even those we might consider large who have memberships in the 70s and 80s are still very small when compared to most of the churches of Christ in this country.
There is such a temptation to assume that if a congregation has a large number of members they are faithful to the Lord. We certainly know this is not necessarily the case. There are bodies that claim to be churches of Christ that have thousands of members that I have trouble conceiving of them as faithful to the Lord in faith and doctrine (This is not to say there are none in those congregations who will be saved, for that is the Lord’s judgment to make ,not mine).
Conversely, there is also a temptation to assume that because a congregation is small in number, they are not a faithful congregation of the Lord’s people. My point is that just because a congregation is small does not make them wrong, nor does it make their assemblies unedifying by the Lord’s standards. Yes, their singing may be a bit weak and “off-key,” their speakers may not be highly skilled, and they may not have the latest in comforts because of their lack of funds, but they still may very well be acceptable to the Lord.
It is worth noting that when you consider Jesus’ messages to the Seven Churches in Asia in Revelation chapters 2-3, only two were totally faithful to the Lord, the churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia. Jesus had nothing negative to say to either of these congregations, and He had plenty of negatives to say to the other five. Judging by Jesus’ words, they both appeared to be smaller and poorer congregations, yet they were the most faithful.
Consider Jesus’ words to Smyrna in Revelation 2:9, “I know your works, tribulation and poverty (but you are rich).” They were poor yet they had much faith. Consider Jesus’ words to Philadelphia in Revelation 3:8, “for you have a little strength.” In spite of their small number, they had kept His Word and had not denied His name. What commendations to both smaller congregations! What an encouragement Jesus’ words are to His congregations today who may “appear” weak and poor to the eyes of man, but in reality they may be rich and spiritually prosperous.
Let us not fall into the trap Satan appears to weave by assuming because a congregation is small in number they are not faithful nor worthwhile. The fact they are small or poor may simply mean they are unpopular in the eyes men, but this does not necessarily make it so in the eyes of God. It is not important to God that His people be popular. What is important to the Lord is for His people to be faithful.