Actually, it led to 56 comments (of which I came in late, and so am the last commenter).
The questions posed by Mark Stevens were: If the church is too large for a minister to not know the name of every person in the congregation is it possible the church has grown too large? Has the minister removed himself from the ability to be a faithful pastor?
Below you will find the gist of my thoughts in response to these questions:
1) I believe you cannot shepherd those you do not know. Shepherds know their sheep, sheep know their shepherds.
2) I think that the normative model set-up in the New Testament is that of a plurality of elders. And, with that said, the elders are the shepherds. I have emphasised amongst our church that we will not appoint someone into eldership if they are not ready to shepherd in some manner. But many churches function in the model that the pastor-shepherd and the elders are different groups. The elders manage, the pastor cares. I find that hard to establish, at least from the conceptual seed in the New Testament.
So if we appoint elders, they need to be challenged to be shepherds. If they are not shepherding in some form and fashion, they probably should be released from eldership (though that wouldn’t be a fun one).
And, as a side note, I am also not up for establishing plurality of elders just because it is the normative model in the New Testament. At this point, I am the only elder-shepherd in our local church. We need more time for people to rise up as shepherds.
3) Because of what I said in #2, I believe having a larger congregation is not inherently evil. If you have 200-300 people (remember that, even in the US, the average congregation is under 100), and you also have a handful of elder-shepherds, I don’t think it is out of the question. But the shepherds still need to know the sheep (which includes getting to know their name). And even if you don’t know everyone’s name, it is good to champion the concerted effort that all sheep have the involvement of at least one shepherd.
4) I used to be quite anti-big church. I’ve grown up a bit from that perspective (I hope). I would still prefer a smaller local church. But I don’t believe it is inherently bad to be big. But what I do find is that, the larger we become (at least in the west), the more we might move into managing rather than shepherding. All shepherding will involve some managing at some point. But that is not the essence of shepherding. But, big does not have to head down the management path, nor the lack of purposed and personal interaction amongst shepherds and sheep, as I can testify from my brothers and sisters in China. Megachurches are to be found in the east, but they function a lot differently than western megachurches.
5) I think ultimately we need a change in perspective – we have to move away from building upwards and start building outwards. This is the model of Acts, the only practical guide to ‘church growth’ we find in the New Testament.