I Was Wrong About the Megachurch

megachurch.jpg

Editor’s Note: This is the 1st of a 5-part Series.

Part 2: “Is the Megachurch Shallow?”


So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.
— Acts 2:41-42
The most significant sociological phenonmenon of the first half of the 20th century was the rise of the corporation. The most significant sociological phenomenon of the second half of the 20th century has been the development of the large pastoral church – of the mega-church.
— Peter Drucker

I was wrong about the megachurch.

No, the megachurch isn’t perfect.

Yes, it’s true that anonymity can be greater in a larger church as well as other weaknesses that may come with the size.

But this post is my admission that assumptions I held previously regarding the megachurch were inaccurate.

But before I get into those assumptions, it may be helpful for me to first explain what a megachurch is.

 

WHAT IS A MegaChurch?

The Hartford Institute for Religion Research defines the megachurch as “any Protestant Christian congregation with a sustained average weekly attendance of 2000 persons or more in its worship services, counting all adults and children at all its worship locations.

This means the megachurch is defined by its weekly attendance. It’s a designation of identity based on numbers.

This means the “megachurch” terminology is not indicative of theological distinctiveness, or any kind of affiliation through denomination or network. Any denominational or non-denominational, Reformed or non-Reformed, charismatic or non-charismatic church can be constituted as a megachurch.

According to author and researcher Warren Bird, almost every protestant denomination has at least one megachurch. People are surprised to hear that Tim Keller’s church (which is presbyterian) had a weekly attendance of 5,000. John MacArthur’s church had a weekly attendance of over 8,000 as of 2008.

So, what were some assumptions I previously held about the megachurch?

 

Some of My Assumptions

“They’re Biblically & Theologically Diluted” 

“I mean, how could certain churches attract so many people? There had to be a dilution of truth somehow, in someway.”

This was an assumption I held especially during my years in theological education at seminary. 

It’s Impossible for Meaningful Community”

“People can feel left out in small group, much less a small church.”

I couldn’t fathom how people were finding genuine community in a church of 2,000 and more. 

“They’re High Attraction and Low Commitment”

“It’s about ‘the show’ which feeds into people’s consumerism.”

I didn’t think attendees were interested in giving their time, talents, or treasures for the well-being of others in the church or community. 

 

Reasons for My Assumptions? 

As I reflect back, I’m not entirely sure why I held to these assumptions. 

I mean there are some megachurches that do lack theological clarity, care less about meaningful relationship, and so forth, but I’m still not sure why I believed these to be true of all megachurches.

Maybe I stumbled onto an article somewhere and extrapolated a few examples as being true of all of them. 

Or maybe a part of me just felt insecure. I’m not really sure why. 

 

CONCLUSION

In the next few posts, I’ll share how my pre-assumptions have been challenged. 

Whether you grew up in the megachurch or you’ve never stepped foot in one, I’d like to invite you along as I re-consider ideas I held previously. 

Hershael York, the Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary once said, “Nowhere in Scripture does it make size a qualification for obedience for a church.” 

It’s my ultimate hope that these writings would cause us all to carefully consider the obedience quality of our churches whether we’re at a big church or a small one.