Big is Better or is it?
Many of us have a “bigger is better” mentality. Boys want bigger muscles. Older boys often want bigger bikes. Men a truck that is bigger because it can do more. Almost no one would say no to a paycheck that is bigger. When it comes to homes, if we would be honest, a bigger home with a bigger lot would be great. When I check into a hotel, I usually don’t look for a small bed: I would like a king size or at least a queen.
Sometimes Small is Better
Harvard Business Review published a piece called “Research: When Small Teams Are Better Than Big Ones.” (Dashun Wang and James A. Evans, February 21, 2019). The point out that “bigger is not always better.” They also suggest, “These ideas apply to business as well. In recent times, it has been easy to believe that adding another member or three to a team will always be the right choice—or at least doesn’t hurt. Our research shows that this is not true. Creating larger teams likely shifts the focus and outcome from disruptive to developmental. For the most innovative projects that seek to disrupt a field and move the needle dramatically, one perhaps should consider how to shrink the size of the team.” HBR.ORG
Some Examples Worth Remembering
Don’t Minimize the Small Church
In my own experience, big teams can be slow-moving creatures that stir up a lot of mud but don’t always create something marvelous. Many pastors would like to have a big congregation, because bigness often translates into more money and bigger programs that attract more attention. We need to be careful about this. Just because something is big and it is noticed, it doesn’t mean it is effective and valuable. I would venture to guess many small churches accomplish more of significance than ten large congregations in the same area might or will. Some of this has to do with relationships. I cannot easily have a relationship with 1,000 people, but I can have a good knowledge of 5-10 people. Knowing them helps me to know their backgrounds, strengths, skills, and passions. Depending on the need or the goal, 2-3 of these people, working together can be a powerful force for good.
The Small Business Advantage
One of the reasons I don’t focus all of our investment dollars on the giants of industry and commerce is that the real growth prospects are often the mid-cap and small cap stocks. Big companies have staying power (unless they are Blackberry, Kodak, Pan Am, or Blockbuster.) They are harder to sink, but like many big ships, some do. It is true that many more small businesses fail, but some go on to incredible growth. Examples abound. Apple, Ford, and Wal-Mart all started as small businesses. Because I understand that there is more growth potential in a small company, a larger percentage of our investments are in mid and small cap stocks than the average investor would consider. Small businesses, if well-run, can be nimble, close to their customers, careful with resources, and energized to see new opportunities that don’t require upper management’s approval and funding.
Living Life Small
Here are some other advantages to being small. The first is humility and dependence. In Job 40:1-5, in speaking to God, Job says “Behold, I am of small account.” He is approaching a God who declares himself to be the Almighty. God then goes on to declare how great and mighty he is. In Job 42 Job declares, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” One advantage of realizing I am small is that I can have the right response before the Almighty. Two possible right responses are humility and dependence.
Blessings Are Irrespective of Size
Psalm 115:13 makes it clear that God’s blessings are based on my perceived size or contribution. In fact, God is impartial about size given who he is. “He (the LORD) will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great.”
Small might not be a Disadvantage if other things are large.
Proverbs 30:24-28 makes it clear that there are other factors, rather than size that can result in success. It is far better to be large in wisdom.
Standing Tall or Small
People tend to like leaders taller than others. But height can be deceptive. Consider King Saul versus King David. The people wanted Saul as their king because he was a strapping big man. In a recent war, the leader on the winning side was shorter than the leader on the losing side. Winston Churchill was 5’6” and Adolf was 5’9”.
In a speech he wrote, Churchill said these well-known words: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.”
Sir Winston was saying that Great Britain didn’t look great during WWII, buy the size of the army and Churchill’s height as a man weren’t the keys to success. “He may have been a full three inches shorter than Adolf Hitler, but that didn’t stop Winston Churchill standing the tallest of all in the Second World War.” Source: The Sun
God’s evaluation of gifts is markedly different from our normal view. We think Bill Gates is generous. He might be. But perhaps not. “Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.’” Luke 21:1-3 (ESV) Also consider these words from Jesus, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” Matthew 25:23 (ESV)
There are two sides to this coin. Little faith can be an obstacle. “And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” Matthew 8:26 (ESV) But even a little faith can be powerful if the focus of your faith is correct.
Matthew 17:20 reminds us of the other side of the little faith idea: “He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Be careful how you view little.
Little can influence our lives in many ways. The reality is that a correct view of what is little can cause us to be so much more effective and impactful. As the Apostle Paul said, “when I am weak then I am strong.” “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:10
So, don’t seek to be supersized. And it is best if I don’t think my brain, my talents, my wealth or my health are what make me useful in God’s kingdom. It isn’t my size that matters.