Editor’s Note: This is Part 5 of a 5-Part Series.
I grew up pretty unfamiliar with the megachurch.
But this all changed a few months ago, when I was invited by one to join their staff.
In the final post of this series, I share why I’ve been growing to appreciate the megachurch as I’ve witnessed firsthand the ins-and-outs of a large scale church.
While the majority of these series posts have been undergirded with research and statistics, this one will be personal and anecdotal.
Here are 4 reasons why I’m learning to appreciate the megachurch:
1. It Has the Potential to Reach People Other Churches Can’t
Have you ever considered what a high profile person such as a professional athlete or musician has to consider when deciding to go to church on Sunday? Or think about the person who just blew up his or her life through adultery or experienced a heart-wrenching divorce and senses a need to go to church. Where would they go? What about the family with a special needs child who needs greater attention?
If your answer is simply something along the lines of a “Biblical church” or a “solid church” it ignores the realities these individuals live in. An NFL quarterback could not simply attend any church. Neither could a single mom of a child with special needs.
But a large church (depending on its values) can possess the resources and ethos to provide a healthy degree of anonymity for the highly profiled, a sense of safety for the home-wrecked, grace space for the curious, and necessary specialization for the uniquely abled.
I’m not saying megachurches are better than smaller churches. Smaller churches can reach people megachurches can’t reach. I’m just saying the same is true the other way around.
2. Its Presence Is Geographically Felt
I used to hear the phrase “If your church disappeared, would anyone notice or miss it?”
I think a megachurch has the potential to be truly missed by its local community, were it to go missing.
I know the church I attend would be missed by those who have been committed to its vision and mission for decades. It would be missed by those in the city who frequent the Resource Center for goods at discounted rates (free, if needed). It would be missed by those who participate in an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group on campus (as well as other groups). It would be missed by the demographic of the city who receive English As a Second Language (ESL) Courses for free in the Community Center. It would be missed by the local schools whose teachers’ lounges have been cleaned and stocked by the local outreach team. It would be missed by the uniquely abled teenagers who have their own youth service on Sundays. And the list could go on and on.
Geography isn’t everything. There are many churches who have a valuable sociological presence (ex: mono-ethnic churches). But I also think time, space, location are realities God cares about.
3. Its Leaders Are Ruthlessly Intentional
Who experiences more complexity? The owner of a mom-and-pop restaurant or the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a restaurant chain? While we might be tempted to say the prior because they’re wearing multiple hats as they sweat it out from the grill to the register counter, I believe the latter is way busier.
This is because he or she as the COO is responsible for tens of hundreds of employees, larger budgets, with each little decision having a ripple effect that can be difficult to reverse (if reversal at all). The prior is busy under the realm of relative simplicity, the latter is busy under the realm of multiplying complexity.
“But do megachurch pastors even have to work that hard?” I’m telling you, some of these megachurch pastors are the hardest working church staffers I’ve ever seen. They are ruthlessly intentional, strategically connecting everything to the broader church, launching initiatives in the right sequence with an understood scope, wrapped in the right language.
Don’t be fooled by how nice some of their offices appear to be. They’re relentlessly dedicated to the cause of the mission.
4. It Celebrates the Right Things
If you’ve ever wondered what a church really cares about, pay attention to what’s celebrated publicly and privately. Celebration is the evidential overflow of a visible reality demonstrating an invisible value.
It’s easy for a church to say they care about Christian maturation, servant-leadership, and missional passion, when it actually celebrates attendance and giving.
But if I asked the current leadership team I’m a part of whether they’d want the church to grow by 1,000 or have 100 people be baptized because they just met Jesus, I know they’d choose the latter because while I’ve seen them celebrate growth, I’ve watched them celebrate new birth even more (and frustration when it wasn’t celebrated enough).
I’ve seen the megachurch celebrate growing volunteer teams because it’s an application of Ephesians 4. I’ve witnessed celebration of vacations (even long ones) because it truly believes in the health of its pastors. I’ve seen celebration of pastoral faithfulness despite unfruitfulness because faithfulness is obedience to Jesus.
I’m sure I’ll see more of the megachurch’s imperfections the longer I’m in one, but this is where I’m at right now.
If you’re cynical towards the megachurch, I’d encourage you to start praying for the nearest megachurch to your house. Ask yourself, “Why am I cynical towards the megachurch?” Ask God to speak into your attitude.
If you’re curious about the megachurch, I’d encourage you to go visit one on a weekend. I’m not saying you should leave your church. Just go to one service, soak it in, and grow from the experience.
If you’re at a megachurch, I’d encourage you to participate in the life of the church in a way that gives no reason for others to raise questions about the megachurch.
Megachurches are one expression amongst other expressions of the local Bride of Christ.
It’s not for everyone, but every one of them that champions the name of Jesus and the gospel of salvation, belongs to Him and that makes me grateful for them.