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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Megachurches: The Positives

Megachurches Michael Hines has a great blog and he recently did a very well thought-out piece on megachurches.  He listed seven positives about megachurches and seven concerns he has about large churches.  I thought we'd break this down into a two-part series since there is some great stuff here.  Today we'll start with the positives; tomorrow the concerns:

1. Large churches are biblical. You can't escape the fact that large growing churches are Scriptural. The first church started as a mega-church with over 3,000 baptized in one day (see Acts 2). From that exciting beginning, the church grew to 4,000 then 5,000 and then it exploded with growth. Man, you would have pruny hands just keeping up with the baptisms!

2. Large churches are exciting. I found it exhilarating to watch as 1,800 to 2,000 people came for worship during my last years in Canton. The singing was wonderful (when the song was singable). The response was terrific. The people walking down the aisle each week made my heart beat just a little faster and, on occasion, tears welled up in my eyes. Yes, we got excited about the numbers but it was because each number represented a person -- a person who needed Jesus!

3. Large churches are influential. I could preach about the sins of the flesh until the cows came home in Laurens or Anita or even in Great Bend and I'd be "preaching to the choir." When a preacher in a mega-church preaches about a sin, social or otherwise, he has influence. It doesn't even have to be a sermon. Joe Wright used a prayer comprised of statements Bob Russell made at the Kansas legislature a few years ago. That prayer raised eyebrows and created controversy throughout Kansas. It probably had negative influence on some but positive influence on many more. I preached in Kansas for eight years but was never invited to pray at the opening of the legislature. Because Joe Wright preached for a mega-church, he received the invitation and made a mark. In addition, when 2,000 or more individuals, influenced by their church, go to the polls or make a stand in their community they have clout.

4. Large churches have resources others don't have. Our budget in Canton in 2004 was, if memory serves, about $1.2 million dollars. In addition, the people committed themselves to raising $5.1 million over a three year period to pay off land for relocation. As Minister of Adult Education, I had an annual budget of more than $25,000 to administer. More than $100,000 went to missions each year. Our budget here in Sun City is a healthy $270,000 and we give 20% to missions all of which is commendable. The talent pool is greater in large churches, too. By percentage, a large church may have no more gifted people than a small church but you can only have so much special music, or youth coaches, or teachers and while you may exhaust your talent pool in a small church, you won't in a large one. (Getting folks to use their talent is equally difficult in large and small churches, however.)

5. Large churches can provide superior programming. While in Canton, my Adult Education Ministry spent more than $12,000 on one program. We invited Dr. Tom Sharp from the Creation Truth Foundation to bring his exhibit to the church and we had a week-long program marketed well in the community through radio spots, billboards, fliers, and so on. More than 1,000 children from Christian schools and home-schoolers showed up for one presentation and evening services ran as high as 700. Most smaller churches would consider the cost of bringing CTF to their church daunting at $5,000. Large churches can provide counseling ministries, special needs ministries, addiction recovery groups, and more.

6. Large churches can be strategic. All too often smaller churches avoid change because of the fear of "rocking the boat." If a large church chooses to make strategic changes and those changes create "upset," some can leave without creating much of a stir. In other words, a large church can afford to "leave the back door open." Smaller congregations often avoid making strategic changes because of the fear that highly influential members or significant contributors will become dissatisfied and leave. No one wants people to leave a church, but in some cases a few healthy subtractions can be as healthy as many additions.

7. Large churches are generally friendly. While there are exceptions, when you attend a large church you are welcomed like a long lost brother. Oh, by the way, the exceptions won't be large very long! When I visited Saddleback I received a warm welcome by the parking attendant who directed me to a parking place, another as I climbed the stairs toward the worship center, another along the way as I was offered a cup of coffee, another at the door of the worship center. Believe it or not, there were other undesignated people who made me feel welcome too. I found the same to be true at North Coast Church, Southeast Christian Church, The Vineyard in Cincinnati, and other assorted churches along the way.

I could probably think of many other reasons for admiring large churches, but seven seemed like a good number.

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8) Mega church leaders have the incredible opportunity and responsibility. Luke 12:48b says "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

I love it when I see mega churches leading and providing mentoring for smaller churches. The best of them do more than "here's what we've done" because they understand that true influence is much more than "Xeroxing the Mega Church".

Posted by: Anthony D. Coppedge | Sep 8, 2005 10:38:51 AM

Critique:

"Large churches are biblical."
The church in Acts is nothing like a megachurch today. They did not meet in one building. Meet like they did in Acts, and we would be in perfect agreement about 'megachurches.'

"Large churches are exciting."
I agree. But just because something is exciting doesn't mean it's right to do. Jesus said to feed the starving, clothe the naked, etc. None of that is exciting. Luke 9:23 says to embrace the cross. It's not exciting.

"Large churches are influential."
Don't minimize the influence of the individual. If Christians had real depth, we would influence society. Jesus could have ran for governor or King if He wanted to, but His kingdom was not of this world. The flesh wants to make big impacts (part of the false humility). We need balance to let our light shine, yet not let the left hand know what the right is doing.

"Large churches have resources others don't have."
You are over emphazing money, and therefore, likely underestimating the power of God. If you had to feed a million people, and had two choices to pick for resources, would you pick cash donations or a miracle from God?

"Large churches can provide superior programming."
Good example of being 'busy' and spending lots of money on projects, but was it worthwhile?
RE: your article "It's Just Not Working"

"Large churches are generally friendly."
Obviously the bigger the church, the friendlier it is... being sarcastic, of course.

I think the biggest problem with planting churches is that you lose control, because you created new leaders. It's too hard on the ego. You really need to be Christ-like to do things unselfishly. All Pastors reading this will say "All glory goes to God." Does it really? That's the challenge. I'm sure there are a few mega-churches and mega-pastors that have it right; I'm afraid for the majority, and their false tithe-teaching (they should be teaching stewardship, but again, they lose control with that one).

...Bernie
http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/247

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Sep 8, 2005 12:00:44 PM

Bernie wrote yesterday, "I have no problem with large churches."

But you had a problem with six out of seven positives this writer thought of.

Oh well, you'll enjoy tomorrow's 'megachurch concerns'

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Sep 8, 2005 1:42:36 PM

Todd says:
"But you had a problem with six out of seven positives this writer thought of."

Actually, I intended to counter each one. I just missed one. That may sound critical or like playing "devil's advocate," but these are actually serious concerns, esp. when used in justification for going mega.

Todd, it seems like lots of your posts are one-sided, causing me to represent the other side. How about trying to be more balanced articles?

For example, you say:
"If a large church chooses to make strategic changes and those changes create "upset," some can leave without creating much of a stir. In other words, a large church can afford to "leave the back door open." "

Is that all positive?

I see:

Positive: As leader, you can get what you want more easily.

Negative: Those who leave can have strong negative opinions of the church because their needs aren't being met or opinions considered.

Do you really think it's healthy to have a open back door? That's one of my concerns about mega-churches-- they don't care as much. Make a change and big deal, leave if you don't like it. Someone else will come along to fill your spot. I've seen that one first-hand. I guess it's ok as long as you continue the excitement with new member intro's and baptisms. Once baptized or a new member, they can get in line or get out.

...Bernie
http://freegoodnews.blogspot.com

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Sep 8, 2005 7:04:30 PM

Bernie wrote:

Todd, it seems like lots of your posts are one-sided, causing me to represent the other side. How about trying to be more balanced articles?

My response: If you read closely, this is PART ONE (the positives) to be followed by PART TWO (the concerns/negatives) tomorrow. Wait to hear both sides please before you think things are always one-sided. My. My.

Of course my opinions are expressed here, I'm the one picking (and sometimes writing) the posts. They're not particularly meant to be balanced all the time. :)

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Sep 8, 2005 9:12:39 PM

I believe this is Todd's blog, isn't it? Unless Todd has a split personality I think he'll probably continue with the one sided posts. And if you look, he linked to a blog where the thoughts originally came from so it isn't even his side. He just said they were well thought out.

Posted by: Kevin | Sep 9, 2005 12:50:30 AM

Will someone please give me the name and location of a megachurch which features traditional music? I ask this because I am under the impression that what attracts many is the closeness of the music to that of a "rock" concert. Am I wrong? E Palmer

Posted by: Ed Palmer | Sep 12, 2005 11:37:09 AM

Christians only like mega-churches because it's so easy to hide in them and the fact that someone else has done the work ! can I hear an AMEN someone?

Posted by: Tom Riggs | Sep 20, 2005 4:30:22 PM

Tom,

Sorry to pick on you today, but no amen from this corner.

What a stereotypical, across the board reaction.

And what a put-down for anyone who attends a larger church. Makes all these people kind of lazy doesn't it? And chicken for that matter. What are they hiding from; and why are they afraid of doing any work?

BTW, I've seen alot of lazy, chicken christians in small churches who are also afraid of work.

Size doesn't matter.

Todd

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Sep 20, 2005 5:02:47 PM

Will someone please give me the name and location of a megachurch which features traditional music? I ask this because I am under the impression that what attracts many is the closeness of the music to that of a "rock" concert. Am I wrong? Yep. U R.
...a few: Saddleback has a traditional music service, Church of the Resur. near Kansas City has several traditional weekly, Frazier Memorial UMC has 3 of 7 tradional and there are more. By traditional you mean music of 50 to 100 or so years ago(?) Will the music of most growing churches now be the "traditional" in another 50 years? Remember the Bible does not define music as Christian. It's the lyrics that count.

Christians only like mega-churches because it's so easy to hide in them and the fact that someone else has done the work ! can I hear an AMEN someone?
NOT from Me. We attend mega churches whenever we can and visitor or not we don't and won't hide. I love watching our congregation grow and someone wishes to hide for a while...why not? There is no need to hurry. Our church and other I know of will not permit someone to become a member if they won't "work".

Posted by: Paul Porter | Sep 28, 2005 12:15:44 AM

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