Bryant Wright has been the senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church outside of Atlanta since 1981 when the church had a membership of about 20 families. Now it has seven Sunday morning worship services with an average worship attendance of 4,000. In Today’s Conversation, he joins Leith Anderson to talk about pastoring a large church.

In this podcast, Bryant and Leith discuss:

  • How expectations for pastors of large churches differ from the expectations of pastors in small-to-medium sized churches;
  • The future of the megachurch movement in the United States;
  • What characteristics a person needs to have to be an effective pastor of a large church; and
  • The case for attending a large church.

Read a Portion of the Transcript

Leith: If you ask people what size church you would like to go to — I’m not sure if they actually say these words, but they come pretty close to say, “Oh, I’d like to go to church of 300 that does everything for me that a church of 30,000 can do.”

Bryant: That’s right.

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Leith: So as a result, they want a church that’s sort of a medium size but has services of a very large congregation. There are far more smaller churches than there are larger churches, so be an apologist​ here and make the case for a large church. Why do we need, why do we want, what’s the value? And if you were talking to somebody, how would you convince them — not necessarily Johnson Ferry — but why would they go to a church that’s large? Why should they do that?

Bryant: Well for one thing, large or small is neither good nor bad. I mean you have large churches that are heretical. You have small churches that are heretical. You have large churches that have a great spirit and a great love within the fellowship. And you have large churches that don’t, as well as small churches the same there. I really believe that it is up to God to determine the size of the church.

Our responsibility is to be the best stewards of the gifts that God​ has entrusted to us, and if for some reason he chooses to bless the church to become a megachurch, then we have a responsibility to make that megachurch small for those that come into the church.

And what I mean by that is where they can find a sense of community. Because the average person within a church is not going to know more than 75 people, so we have got to have systematic structure within that megachurch to allow them to find their “church within a church” — what we call it at Johnson Ferry — so that they begin to feel that it is small once they come inside.

The major hesitation of people coming to Johnson Ferry is they are intimidated by the size. They tell us that over and over again, so we have to go to extra lengths to help them find that “church within a church” where they can have a sense of community, the fellowship, the Christian fellowship that really makes them want to stay and feel part of the fellowship.

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Today’s Conversation is brought to you by Belhaven University.