Someone sent me a tweet recently I’ve been thinking about. He asked about mega-churches and if many of the people they attract simply come from other churches. I had to agree. Having been a part of a couple of them and observed many more up close, I believe the following to be generally true:
A. Mega-churches are cooler, hipper than other area churches, therefore are natural gathering points for already-converted people who are looking for “something more” – namely cooler program options, better worship, more services with fewer demands. In a way, they are to local churches what Wal-Mart is to mom and pop stores. Difficult to compete. I’m not convinced they do a better job all around at bringing the Kingdom of God to a community.
B. Mega-churches nearly always think they are doing a significant work of evangelism but typically they are weak in outreach or are simply approaching outreach as one of many programs versus making it a primary focus of the church. Look at the per capita baptism rates to get the real story. Statistics show that the ideal sized congregation for maximum evangelism to take place is a medium-sized congregation – between 250 and about 500. There is great motivation among members of that sized congregation to include newcomers than at an exceedingly large church. To boot, a church tends to be as evangelistic as her senior pastor. You can apply that truth to any sized congregation. Great upfront teachers aren’t necessarily passionate about bringing people into relationship with Jesus.
C. My bottom line after leading at a couple of mega-churches is this: I’d rather have 15 churches of 500 that are maximizing their potential for outreach than to have one church of 7,500 that is fun to lead, fun to be a part of, that strokes my ego, but that in the quiet moments scares me that one day God is going to ask me how I stewarded all of that potential. God give us wisdom to walk rightly with you.
Sorry to come across heavy with this, but every once in a while it needs to be preached.
Challenging stuff, Steve! But what does a church do if it should be so “unfortunate” as to grow into a mega-church?
Thanks for posting this, Steve! Yeah, would you say once a church starts teetering around the 500 mark that it should be “capped” in favor of a new plant?
Steve, I attend your old stomping ground VCC and have ever since it was a 250-500 church when we were on Crescentville Rd. Your fun, vibrant energy (you used to say was partly ADD and Starbucks 🙂 landed me in a loving environment and brought my soul to a place that was safe to love Jesus and be loved. Now I feel Dave, and staff, continue that tradition in a purely Jesus driven manner with the sole intention of loving all people into a deep relationship with Christ. With that said, I personally know many people that have come from other church’s to VCC and did this because they didn’t feel “connected” with their church but also saw and felt the strong dedication to servanthood, outward focussed love and tireless devotion to serving not only the poor but people from all walks of life. I feel like many of our mega-sized events draw the attention of thousands of people, in-turn showing the love of Jesus in a mega-way. I feel that hosting over 1,000 special needs adults at Prom and over 1,000 middle/high school students for an entire week at SOS, etc, is something only a 6,500 member church could do on a regular basis. I also feel it brings that mega-exposure to the love of Jesus that such large scale events can do. I can never thank you enough for being the honest, Jesus loving person you are. It started my journey with Him that grows deeper everyday with the help of the great leadership at VCC and it’s mega-love! Curious about your thoughts on these issues?
As a small church pastor most of my adult life, I agree with your statement about evangelism often being a reflection of the pastor. As to the idea about mega churches attracting mostly people from other churches, it has been my experience that that is true of most churches period. Small, medium, and mega churches all tend to gain more people from other churches than from the lost world at large. A conscious effort must be made by all to turn outward and reach our world for Jesus.
Small Church Tools
Good point, Terry. Church planting is generally regarded as the most effective method of evangelism. Newer churches tend to make converts, but most older bodies are rather static. So staying medium-sized forever certainly isn’t a solution in and of itself.
Mitch, I agree. An aggressive planting of churches will go farther, in my opinion, in outreach than to continue to expand programs at existing churches.
Indeed. Chuck Smith’s longtime motto, “healthy sheep reproduce,” seems to apply here.
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