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Can a Pastor of 5,000 Understand a Church of 150?

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We at are attempting something risky.

We are hoping to convince church leaders of all church sizes to consider learning a church model from a church of 5,000. But isn’t that precisely the reason so many Christian conferences feel out-of-touch? How many conferences feature megachurch pastors explaining to small-church pastors what has worked so well for completely different demographics in completely different contexts? Can megachurch pastors really understand the unique challenges of smaller churches?

So, if you’re a pastor of a small or medium-sized church, it may be tempting to quit reading as we begin to describe this pastor and church.

Corey Trimble, pastor of The Experience Community in Murfreesboro, TN, is a tattooed, millennial former rock star who preaches in bare feet. He helped plant The Experience Community in 2009, which has since been noted as the fastest growing church in Tennessee. He is a leader and author of the recent book An Authentic Experience: Creating an Inviting Culture with Biblical Integrity.

If you’re not a former punk rock star with a church that’s making headlines, then what could Corey’s church possibly teach you about your church?

It’s a good question, and the best way to answer is first by pointing out what has not led to The Experience Community’s growth.

It’s not uncommon for church leaders to visit The Experience Community in order to find out their secret. Is it something about the building? The artwork and décor? Do we need to preach trendier sermon series? Do our walls need to be made out of reclaimed wood? What music should we play?

Yet The Experience’s growth has nothing to do with these things. Rather, it has everything to do with a culture its leaders prayerfully and intentionally built back before they had the budget for anything trendy. And it’s a culture which can be cultivated in any size of church.

What kind of culture? Well, it’s a culture which balances two things which are often treated as either-or. They are 1) staying 100% faithful to the Bible, and 2) welcoming outsiders into a community of belonging. It’s easy to do one or the other. Balancing both takes a lot of intentionality.

Where does this faithful and welcoming culture start? Not with big budgets. Not with rock star hires. Not with creative sermon series.

It starts with you. A faithful and welcoming church culture starts with cultivating those characteristics in your own personal culture.

As Corey explains in the book,

“The first growth barrier in the life of a church is the 200-person mark that a vast majority of churches in the United States never crest. If one researches church growth barriers, one will discover that the first 200 people are typically a result of the connection the pastor has to their community.”

If you’re the pastor of a smaller church, wouldn’t it be great to know that, as a church leader, there’s something you can do right now to help your church break the 200-person barrier? And that it won’t have to involve a bigger budget or catchier sermon titles?

Rather, it involves you connecting with people—the very thing you probably love to do. Without a doubt, it’s the very thing that your community needs during a season of loneliness, confusion, and despair.

There has perhaps never been a better year for your church to reevaluate its priorities than 2020.

The many disruptions we have faced may present setbacks, but they also present an invitation to discern what the church must emphasize and what the church needs to leave behind.

If you are a church leader, we want to encourage you to join us on Monday, November 23, from 7:00-8:30 p.m. for a free webinar called “The Authentic Experience Church Model.” During this free webinar, Corey Trimble will be joining Bobby Harrington as they discuss how to cultivate both biblical faithfulness and an inviting atmosphere in your church, regardless of its size or location. Corey will teach on the church leader’s personal culture and how that feeds into a church culture which is both faithful and inviting. Hope you can join us!