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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

MisGuided Church Quote of the Day: The MegaChurch has No Appeal"

Megachurches_1 Interesting quote... I'll make it my quote of the day.  It's a quote about today's 'megachurch':

"It [the megachurch] has no depth, in most cases, theologically speaking, and has no appeal for any commitment."  ...The megachurches simply wanted individuals to feel good about themselves.  It's a church being organised on corporate logic. That can be quite dangerous if we are not very careful, because this may become a Christianity which I describe as 'two miles long and one inch deep'."

Obvously, I disagree with this comment, if for no other reason than I think it's unfair to criticize or compliment a church only because of it's size.  It's like class warfare, only in the church.

The remarkable thing is the "who" behind this quote?  This quote is actually from Samuel Kobia, who is the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches.

Sorry, but anyone speaking for the World Council of Churches lacks any objectivity to me, especially when speaking on matters of church health and development.  That makes Samuel's statement today's official MisGuided Church Quote of the Day.

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February 22, 2006 in Megachurches | Permalink

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Todd, rather than attack the messenger, what about looking at his message and reasoning? You quoted Dr. Samuel Kobia saying:

"It [the megachurch] has no depth, in most cases, theologically speaking, and has no appeal for any commitment."

Generally speaking, you think his observation is wrong? I think the biggest USA megachurch is Joel Osteen's. Is it true for that one? Are you assuming that when people refer to "mega-churches" they are attacking RW?

Todd, you said:
"Obvously, I disagree with this comment, if for no other reason than I think it's unfair to criticize or compliment a church only because of it's size. It's like class warfare, only in the church."

Dr. Kobia never said he was against large churches simply because of their size. You didn't look at his actual statement but inferred something he didn't actually say. Maybe he likes large churches, but just not mega-churches for the reason he gave?

How is it like class-warfare? You are assuming the underlying point is simply jealousy?

...Bernie

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Feb 22, 2006 3:22:07 PM

yeah, Bernie, good point I think. I'd like to see this quote in context myself, but because it's from the WCC, I won't spend a lot of time on it...

;-P

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Feb 22, 2006 3:25:25 PM

The part that caught my eye was the statement: "It's a church being organised on corporate logic." I understand how this can be a danger, but it is not always a danger. The problem with many churches is that they do not use good management and leadership techniques in governing their church.

I fully understand the danger of being a "business," but just as the Bible is not a science or history book, neither is it a management/leadership book.

I personally struggle with the balance of business and spiritual. But I know that if I work at both they can be symbiotically good for each other. Not always, but they can be. Good business should make the spiritual side better. A good spiritual side should make the business side better.

Posted by: eric | Feb 22, 2006 3:34:44 PM

Hi Eric-

Good points. I took a leadership seminary course. This stood out to me, as regarding the biggest difference between the corp. world vs. how churches should be led:

Matt. 20:
25Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

...Bernie

PS: It's a foundational Bible verse for biblical courses and textbooks on leadership. Think about how your church measures up to our Lord Jesus' teaching.

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Feb 22, 2006 4:06:50 PM

While Dr. Kobia didn't say he is "AGAINST large churches simply because of their size" (emphasis mine), he was clearly generalizing about the theological depth of large churches (that's sort of the definition of a megachurch). Such generalizations are dangerous to the unity to which we are called. It is no less dangerous to state generally that "fundamentalist" or "traditionalist" churches are irrelevant in today's culture (a line we sometimes cross here at MMI).

I think it could just as easily be said that "[the American church] has no depth, in most cases, theologically speaking, and has no appeal for any commitment. ...The [American church] simply wanted individuals to feel good about themselves." As a GENERALIZATION, that statement is probably no less accurate than Dr. Kobia's generalization about megachurches.

The key for pastors (and apostles, prophets, teachers, etc.; cf Eph 4:11) is to equip God's people for works of service and to build the body of Christ to unity and maturity. That can happen - or it can be neglected - in any size church.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Feb 22, 2006 4:11:40 PM

Randy Ehle said:
"Such generalizations are dangerous to the unity to which we are called."

If it's true, then it NEEDS to be said, to sound a warning.

Many churches need to be rebuked. Read about it in Revelation, where the Lord judges seven churches. You can read that and put 2 and 2 together...if the show fits...

Some say "who are you to judge?" The Lord already judged... why not listen and obey? Do what He says to do, and stop doing what He says not to. It's really quite simple.

Unity is important, but it's more important to address sin, esp. if it exists in the church.

I wish Dr. Kobia had the guts to cite specific instances. It's so like preachers to rail against greed, etc., without examples. Cowards.

...Bernie

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Feb 22, 2006 4:27:41 PM

Truth is truth, no matter who says it. We really need to guard ourselves against dismissing something because it is stated by someone who represents a different value system or agenda than our own. You can find thousands of posts all over the web from simple church or house church leaders who say the very same thing that this individual did.

Is the observation only invalid because they are not a megachurch insider? I personally don't think size is the issue with respect to commitment, but can we be honest enough to ask whether very large congregations seem to have a proportionally higher percentage of attrition rate when it comes to the commitment of their participants overall or not? If so, maybe the substance of the statement you quoted is closer to the mark than populist Christianity would like to acknowledge.

From the science of relational dynamics, depth decreases in proportion to mass. I attend a church of about 500 weekend attendance and the preaching is terrific, but the relational and spiritual depth is pretty shallow. I've also attended churches of several thousand and the same thing appears to be so there. I don't want to be unfair, but both experience and observation demonstrate that the bigger is gets, the more impersonal (and thus, the more spiritually ineffective) it becomes.

The only question worth asking is this? Is that what Jesus had and has in mind? I really don't know, so I'm open to continuing my study of it. Is bigger better? It's a really mixed bag and maybe the challenge for the smaller church is expanding vision where the challenge for the megachurch is deeply committed disciples. Is there any hard numerical data to give evidence of spiritual maturity for mega church participants out there anywhere. I'd like some facts one way or the other.

Posted by: Dean | Feb 22, 2006 4:42:54 PM

"If it's true, then it NEEDS to be said, to sound a warning." Agreed. Yet I urge caution to anyone against over-generalizing. As I said, Dr. Kobia's statement could be applied just as accurately to small churches, to rural churches, to urban churches, to American churches, to Canadian churches, to European churches, to ... you name it.

The implication of Dr. Kobia's remarks seems to be that megachurches are susceptible to shallow theology and that smaller churches are not. I would suggest that every church and every church "model" is susceptible to the problems addressed in Revelation.

"Unity is important, but it's more important to address sin." I would suggest that disunity is both a result of sin and a sin in itself. It is clearly the result of sin (cf James 4) and we cannot be truly or fully united without a purging of sin. But disunity itself is also sin, and Paul warned several times to avoid divisive persons. (cf Rom 16:17 and Titus 3:10; see also 1 Cor 1:10, 11:18, and 12:25...all in context, of course).

Unfortunately, I have seen (and, sadly, contributed to) some divisive discussions on this blog. I generalizations may be(GENERALLY!) more divisive than constructive, so I urge great caution in their use.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Feb 22, 2006 4:56:29 PM

I really love it guys.

First, so many people here cry for truth.

Many criticize anyone for something very small.... tear good people apart for one thing they say. It has to be all or nothing with so many people here.

Until now.

I purposefully quote someone who is outside the mainstream (at least my mainstream) who over-generalizes on something like large churches, and some of these same people are, 'yeah, he's right!' Come on. God can't speak the truth thru someone like RW, but will in this instance thru the WCC? Give me a break!

(I think, btw, that God can speak truth through anyone).

1. The megachurch has no depth.
Based on what? Well, obviously, it's size, cause that's all he's mentioned. Inference: Small churches get it. Size matters; and churches of depth are naturally smaller.

2. The megachurch has no appeal for committment. Again, this comment is an over-generalization based on size. I would say the same thing was wrong if someone said that churches under 50 have this problem.

3. The megachurches simply wanted people to feel good about themselves? Overgeneralization #3. True in some instances? Sure, I'm sure; but not every case... it's a stereotype.

4. The megachurch is based on on corporate logic. Wait. Someone call John MacArthur.

5. The megachurch results in Christianity that is two miles long and one inch deep. I actually agree with someone earlier who said that this was true of the American church in general; but is, again, a generalization when it comes to large churches only. I think many would agree that many WCC churches are neither two miles deep or one inch deep! :)

How is this class warfare? Because it plays one church against another. Really, in this case, the haves (the large churches) and the have nots (the small churches). Attend any group of pastors meeting together and you'll see this pop up all the time. And it's one that many small church pastors buy into. It's full to blame the big guys (who by the way, never help you and steal your members). And when a leader comes out quoting over-generalizations like this, people tend to cling to it's every word.

Somehow I knew that Bernie and others would like this one. Hope I did a good enough job 'splaining myself. I still cannot talk; so my keyboard is my only outlet.

I'm out.

Todd

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Feb 22, 2006 5:09:41 PM

Dean, I appreciate your balanced comments. One thing you said struck me: "Can we be honest enough to ask whether very large congregations seem to have a proportionally higher percentage of attrition rate when it comes to the commitment of their participants overall or not?" I sure hope we can ask that! I think the difficulty comes in answering that question. For one thing, it's hard to agree on what "commitment" means (or "spiritual maturity", as discussed here a couple weeks ago). And if we could agree on that, we then face the challenge of how to measure that (e.g., surveys or personal interviews or...?). The difficulty I have really boils down to these questions of measuring - what and how?

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Feb 22, 2006 5:18:53 PM

FYI, here is Dr. Kobia's bio., which looks pretty impressive:

http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/press_corner/pc_kobiabio.html

Snippet:
He gained a Diploma in Theology at St Paul’s United Theological College, Kenya, as well as a Diploma in Urban Ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary, USA. In 1978, he obtained a Masters degree in City Planning (MCP) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA. In 1993, he was awarded a degree of Doctor of Divinity by the Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, USA, and in 2003 received a PhD in Religious Studies from Fairfax University, Louisiana, USA.

...Bernie

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Feb 22, 2006 6:18:30 PM

No debth? Coming from the World Council of Churches? Now thats funny.

Posted by: Andy McAdams | Feb 22, 2006 7:17:28 PM

Just wanted to offer a quick reprise...

Maybe we should have a moratorium to outlaw disucssion of size altogether on the blog. That would seem to force us to discuss matters related to making disciples. Is that possible, Todd? :) I agree that size doesn't indicate the overall health of a local fellowship. I do think it is harder for a smaller fellowship to focus on the harvest field and for a larger one to develop the deeper individual relational accountability needed to grow toward deeper Christ-likeness. Is there a solution? I think so, but it would require a radical change in mindset about ecclesiology aimed at disciple-making. Food for thought there.

There really are good things taking place in fellowships of all sizes and shapes. But we humans seem to take some kind of perverse pleasure in picking those who aren't like us to pieces. Weird. What good does that do? And that goes both for the big boys who ridicule the litttle guys and for the little guys who chip away at the big boys. Sounds kinda like spiritual immaturity all around for all of us, doesn't it? Does God look at us and shake His head at all of this and say, "I guess boys will be boys." Maybe it's time we all grew up a bit. Sad thing is that there really are people who are spiritually lost and others who have stunted spiritual growth while these games are being played.

Posted by: Dean | Feb 22, 2006 9:59:59 PM

Bernie,

I often agree with much of what you share but i have to tell you I think you pulled one from way out in left field somewhere when you said:

"Unity is important, but it's more important to address sin, esp. if it exists in the church."

That statement is loaded with an inference that unity, as in the heart beat of our Lord's prayer prior to His death, that we would become one even as He and His Father are one...unity as in that which the Lord said was as precious to Him as the anointing oil through which Aaron was consecrated for the ministry of the high priest to enter the Holy of Holies...unity as in the only way Jesus ever said that the world would come to know who He is through us...unity as in the very essence of relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit and His greatest of all desires for His children...this...UNITY...is worth sacrificing in order to confront sin!!!

I don't think so brother! In fact, my love for you will often cause me to cover your sin.

I'm not suggesting there is not a place for addressing sin, confronting it and dealing with it individually and in the Church. There is, and this we do. But the only possible scenario I can imagine when confronting sin would be more important that unity is when the the sinner in question is unrepentant and the sin to be confronted is itself destroying our unity.

Even the very act of confronting sin in the Church needs to be done from a place of unity.

Sorry Bernie but I just can't go there with you on that one bro.

Posted by: Jim Eaton | Feb 23, 2006 12:17:42 AM

Gotta agree with Jim here . . .

Couple of reason I can think of, besides the importance of unity which Jim so eloquently described, that we should always act with extreme caution when confronting sin.

1. Sin is born in our hearts, and none of us is privy to the heart of a brother or sister. Jumping too soon to sin confrontation can cause us to “assume” things about the heart of another person which we have no business assuming.
2. We have a dangerous propensity for “log/eye disease.” Our fallen nature results in an unhealthy imbalance – the more “sin” we confront in others the less “sin” we tend to see in ourselves.
3. There is nothing we can do about the sin of a brother or sister (or an unredeemed person for that matter). The blood of Christ redeems – the Holy Spirit convicts and transforms. Too much confronting can tempt us to try and take over the work of the Holy Spirit, lead us to bad theological thinking that God needs us.
4. Scripture instructs that calling out the sin of a brother or sister should be done in love and the context of community, very difficult (impossible) to do in a public forum.
5. On the other hand, there is much we can to create unity. It is not going to exist among us unless we are intentional and urgent about creating and sustaining it. It is hard work and requires that we are vulnerable and humble with one another. But the kingdom pay off, I would submit, if far greater than confronting sin.

Wendi

Posted by: Wendi | Feb 23, 2006 12:51:52 AM

Hi Chaps and Chappesses!

I thought that Todd's earlier article: "Debunking the Myths About MegaChurches", (February 03, 2006), which is based on actual research, is something of a corrective to many misconceptions about Mega Churches.

It must be very galling to certain ones in the liberal quarters to see this stuff (the above research); particularly as many of their Churches seem to be shrinking in size, with what I consider to be a shallow theology, which has more to do with Humanism than Christianity.

This is not to say that we don't have other problems.

Cheers!

Posted by: Rev. Peter W. Gilroy | Feb 23, 2006 9:29:49 AM

Jim and Wendi-

It saddens me greatly that you think "unity" takes precendence over "holiness." We are called to be holy, also. We are called to be Christ-like. Tolerating sin for the sake of unity, is, well, just spiritually gross to me. Our highest goal, as I understand it, is to be conformed to the likeness of God.

...Bernie

Romans 8:29
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Posted by: bernie dehler | Feb 23, 2006 10:47:47 AM

Wait a minute Bernie, I didn't say unity over holiness, or even unity over tolerance of sin. I said unity over confronting the [perceived] sin in others. In other words, do it think God wants ME personally to spend more time, energy (mental and actual) building the unity of the church or confronting the sins of other people. That's an easy answer for me.

I have a friend who has recently told some lies that have circled back to me and are compromising his ministry and personal integrety. I fully understand my responsibility to confront this in love. His holiness will come about through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, not because of my confrontation. Holiness comes from submitting to the sanctifying work of the HS, not through anything you or I do.

When I'm not in relationship with someone, when I don't (and can't) know their heart, when there are others (Christians) to whom the person is accountable, when I'm in no way involved in the situation . . . then I just don't think it's my job to confront sin.

Now, I might say I disagree with a particular way of doing something, even strongly disagree. But calling someone a sinner (except in a general sense) is not a right I think I have very often.

Wendi

Posted by: Wendi | Feb 23, 2006 11:10:41 AM

Bernie says [Our highest goal, as I understand it, is to be conformed to the likeness of God.]

I totally agree with that statement. And God embodies perfect holiness and perfect unity in equal measure! And to threaten unity is very dangerous. I know that as a pastor if I threaten the unity of this church, I could pretty easily be fired for it (good thing, too). In fact, to threaten unity is pretty "unholy", isn't it. And to threaten holiness will destroy unity...

It is indeed a delicate line we walk...

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Feb 23, 2006 11:15:27 AM

Hi Peter & Wendi-

Clarifying example:

Suppose your preacher preaches something from the pulpit that you think is unbiblical, for example, if we don't tithe then we are under the curses of Malachi Ch. 3. Which is more important, to stay quite for unity, or to confront it because of false teaching?

Let's just stick to this one example to narrow our focus.

...Bernie

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Feb 23, 2006 12:11:47 PM

Bernie,

In your example, if I believed that my pastor taught something unbiblical I would meet with him/her and present my case. If he believes that he has not compromised and I strongly believe that he has, I would arrange to take my case to the elders of the church who are charged with protecting the biblical purity of our church. If they likewise disagree with me and I have not been persuaded otherwise, I have a decision to make. Is this a disagreement I can live with? If not, I must find a new faith community with which I can align theologically. And I must go quietly without making a big stink about why I'm leaving.

What I cannot and must not do is "go public" with my complaint. No discussions around the water cooler, no e-mails to try and rally a following who agrees with me. Privite discussions only, me and the pastor, me and the elders.

I've confronted and unity is protected.

Wendi

Posted by: Wendi | Feb 23, 2006 12:36:16 PM

I agree Wendi! Even though I think tithing IS biblical... (we won't go there again, will we Bernie?)

;-)

Complain up! Not down, not across, not around. It preserves unity!

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Feb 23, 2006 12:41:23 PM

Hi Wendi-

Pretty close to how Jesus told to handle it in Matt. 18. First, talk to the Pastor. Second, bring witnesses. Third, bring it to the church. You don't progress to step three, you either accept the false teaching or quietly leave instead. Do you see how you are not following the Lord's advice, for the sake of unity (or cowardice). I think this cowardice is epidemic in the church, and so you are just doing what you've seen and have been taught by church culture. They forget that Scripture is useful for correcting and rebuking.

...Bernie

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

Posted by: Bernie Dehler | Feb 23, 2006 2:07:38 PM

Bernie,

But... (there's always a but... following me around... ;-))

I do NOT think this is a Matthew 18 situation, though. That is for when a brother has offended you personally. I think it's stretching to apply it to this kind of "doctrine" situation. Everybody becomes their own authority on everything if we apply Matt 18 to something like this. Do you see how everybody's personal agendas become the issue in this case?

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Feb 23, 2006 2:34:08 PM

Peter-

The "personal agenda" is correct biblical teaching. If you don't correct incorrect doctrine, might as well attend a Mormon church? At some point, you have to draw a line of what is important and what isn't, and make a stand. If you don't take a stand, for the cause of unity, then you are not being responsible.

(Even forgetting Matt. 18) 2 Tim. 3:16 definitely applies... Scripture is useful for correcting and rebuking. Not that somone should go looking for trouble, but balance it with not giving a blind-eye to false teaching, for the sake of unity (or cowardice by taking the easy way out).

...Bernie

Posted by: Bernie of FreeGoodNews.com | Feb 23, 2006 3:12:16 PM

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