By Eugene C. Scott
Size matters. Especially to 12-year-old boys. That’s the year, 1969, I began to believe bigger was better. Every Friday night my best-friend Bruce and I would walk to a mall in our neighborhood to hang out. We always hoped there would be girls there. There usually weren’t and, had there been, we would have been afraid to talk to them anyway. Bored Bruce and I would saunter over to Hodel’s Drug Store to buy a bottle of Dr Pepper each. Since we were scrawny kids, we’d buy the biggest bottle of DP available: 16 oz. Then we’d stroll around acting big and sipping our Dr Peppers.
To us size mattered. Bigger was better, especially where Dr Pepper was concerned. By high school, however, we needed something even bigger. Monster four-wheel drive trucks filled the bill. Most Friday nights you could find a dozen trucks with those huge tires, roll bars, and loud 8 track players parked in front of my house. My mom complained they blocked her view of the mountains.
Does size matter?
According to my high school buddies it does (not to mention the spam email industry that promises a magic pill that can enlarge a body part most high school boys value even over their trucks.).
It seems like many people in the modern world suppose bigger is better.
Though many people complain about them, mega-churches are all the rage. In the new church (church planting) world the going philosophy is, “Launch Large.”
Fast food joints offer to “super-size” already big burgers. Thus our waist lines have grown bigger.
Think too of Walmart, The Home Depot, Google, colleges, public school systems, and–please no–big government.
Since growth is usually good and a sign of life–and bigger often means cheaper prices or more services–most of us haven’t given the bigger is better mantra the scrutiny it needs.
But “big” is not a synonym for “best.”
Think of the trend in education. At one time, students learned one-on-one or in small groups led by one teacher. Then communities formed small schools that could educate all the children there. But as communities grew so did schools. As did the size of the problems. Curricula became uniform, teaching to a median rather than specific needs, leaving many kids treading water in a sea of students. Grades and over-all knowledge dropped. This, in part, developed a mind-set of information dumping rather than mentoring.
Standardized testing ignores diversity. This one-size-fits all mentality lends to a loss of individual achievement. To battle that we award students with a generic “you are special” rather than getting to know them and what they are capable of. We can’t; there are too many of them. In large schools discipline problems have exploded exponentially because there are few real, relational consequences.
Big is not synonymous with bad but is often impersonal, cumbersome, unaccountable, one-size (BIG!) fits all.
Big churches have more money for mission and programs. It’s just that they often lose touch with their people. Likewise big businesses offer better deals but few personal services.
Still big has a dangerous down side. Think of the internet. Its main flaw is its offer of anonymity and lack of accountability. But the internet is not evil. Just the aloneness and distance it fosters. Humans were created to be connected. Big strains or destroys that.
I know I sound idealistic and unrealistic. Maybe so. But I remember the problems my friends in high school and I had with those huge trucks. We each owned one (you were not cool if you didn’t) and all drove alone to the same hangouts. Soon we fought over who had the biggest and coolest truck and our friendships frayed. Then OPEC declared an oil embargo and gas prices shot through the roof. After that we all walked together down to the local park and talked and hung out. Life was good.
Whatever you think, I believe the distance this focus on big creates between us as humans is insidious and dangerous. It eventually forces us to be less than human, less than we were created to be.
God faced this same problem. God was so big we could not really connect with him. So he poured himself into a tiny baby, and lived a small life where those within several hundred miles could touch him, argue with him, love him and be loved by him.
Does size matter? God thought so.
Eugene is a recovering Dr Pepper addict, could not afford a real monster truck–so was not very cool in high school–and is not very large himself, but doesn’t have small-man syndrome. He also is co-pastor of the intentionally small but really relational The Neighborhood Church.