Is the Megachurch Shallow?

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Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a 5-Part Series.

Part 1: “I Was Wrong About the Megachurch

Part 3: “Is Community Possible at a Megachurch?


“‘Bigger is better’ is not always right. We all know big churches that, from our vantage point, don’t look to be preaching the gospel faithfully or ministering the way Christ would want us to minister. But we also don’t want to say that bigger is automatically ‘badder’—that those churches automatically have sold out.
— Kevin DeYoung

In 2016, an article reported a story of a megachurch called Cedar Lakes Community Church apologizing after visitors found the church’s “Statement of Beliefs” on their website.

Why the apology?

Cedar Lakes Community Church had been intentionally trying to hide their “Statement of Beliefs” so no one could actually read it. 

Now the article was published by the satirical Babylon Bee, so while it’s not an actual church, I do think the satire of a megachurch trying to hide its beliefs statement exists for a reason.

Are megachurches shallow? Are they a mile wide and one inch deep? Or do they actually have some substance?

 

What Do We Mean by “Shallow”?

When someone describes a church as being shallow, it’s often due to a specific reason rather than a list.

For example, someone may cite one of the following reasons for church shallowness: 

1. PREACHING - “The sermons aren’t in depth, verse by verse.” 

I can understand this sentiment as a preacher who loves to dig my nails into the text. It’s a great feeling to leave a church service after feeling like you’ve learned more of the Bible. So if a sermon is filled with anecdotes and straight forward points, it can feel to some a bit “watered down.” 

2. PRODUCTION - “The service is like a rock concert.” 

I remember being amazed when I saw the lights, sounds, and seamless transitions the first time I attended a megachurch. Sometimes, it can seem like a ton of energy is poured into engineering an “experience” (“churchella”). Is it really the Holy Spirit or is it just hype? 

3. PROGRAMS - “There are many attractive events.” 

Men’s Ministry Corn Dog Eating Contest. Women’s “Her-Story” Testimonial & Escape Room Night. Toddlers and the Trinity Dance Party. Sometimes, the megachurch can come off like it’s catering a buffet of endless spiritual dishes for consumeristic Christians. 

 

Big & Small are in it together

So are megachurches guilty of some of those examples? 

Yes, absolutely.

But there are large churches, mid-sized churches, and even small churches who are doing the exact same things (just on a lesser scale). 

And many who aren’t, would do it in a heartbeat if they had the permission to preach differently, the resources to improve production, or the manpower to increase programming.

But even more importantly, I’m not sure if these reasons are the accurate parameters to measure the spiritual depth vs. shallowness of a church. 

 

How Does the Bible Define Shallowness?

In two chapters in the book of Revelation, Jesus has opinions on the quality of 7 churches in Asia Minor.

Jesus appears to be very interested in the churches’ obedience, perseverance, fidelity to the truth, genuineness of heart, right prioritization, and spiritual vitality through outward action. Interestingly enough - other items such as size, preaching methodology, production style, and programs don’t warrant much attention from Jesus. 

He’s interested in deeper things (even if we find Jesus teaching with stories and illustrations, God desiring excellence and beauty in the establishment of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-31), and the early church creating and sharpening programs for others, in other parts of the Bible). 

The point? Neither size nor style are accurate indicators of shallowness or depth.

 

megachurches are easy tArgets

But some reason, I think it’s easy to thump on a larger church with its own unique style.

In his article, Small vs. Big Churches: The Family Feud We All Lose, Trevin Wax articulates how we can attack the larger church “[a]s if, all small churches preach an undiluted gospel. Or small churches don’t have people who just sit and soak and never serve. Or small churches never have problems creating community. Or small churches never have authoritarian pastors who treat their congregation like their personal fiefdom…Nominal Christianity hides in churches of all sizes. Church splits and factions happen in churches of all sizes. And the fragrance of Jesus Christ and the power of His kingdom is in churches of all sizes.”

Thom Rainer states this positively when he says, “There are many healthy small churches. There are many healthy large and megachurches. And there are plenty of unhealthy churches of all sizes.

Size brings unique complexities and style creates certain complexions, but these factors alone do not determine the substance of a church.

The truest measure of a church’s substance is obedience and faithfulness to Jesus and his commandments.

 

Conclusion 

Researcher and author, Warren Bird & Scott Thumma once surveyed 25,000 attendees of megachurches and found that attendees reported spiritual growth and increased participation in church involvement. 

I am a personal witness to this.

I have sat in on an hour long pastors meeting which was actually a Bible study on Biblical stewardship. I’ve witnessed people proactively and sacrificially serve out of sensitivity to God’s leading. I’ve conversed with recent believers who have turned from other gods to the true and living God.

Not all megachurches are like Cedar Lakes Community Church.

Even if they appear to be from their website.