Megachurch Faith

The Washington Post reports about a study conducted by researchers at Baylor University. Here’s what they found out about the beliefs of people who attend megachurches:

‘Baylor researchers found that megachurches tend to be more evangelical than small churches.

‘Ninety-two percent of megachurch members believe that hell “absolutely exists,” compared with just over three-quarters of small-church members, the survey found. And eight in 10 megachurch worshipers believe that the Rapture — when followers of Jesus Christ believe they will be taken to heaven — will “absolutely” take place, compared with less than half of those who attend small churches.’

Read the rest here:

“Big Churches Not Always Impersonal, Study Finds” – by Jacqueline L. Salmon (Washington Post)

38 Responses to Megachurch Faith

  1. John September 22, 2008 at 10:08 am #

    I didn’t know the rapture made you more “evangelical”!!

    Sounds kind of silly to me

  2. Lydia September 22, 2008 at 10:44 am #

    ‘In addition to their evangelical mission, megachurches thrive because of the social experience they provide and their emphasis on music. “The same things that made them popular — contemporary music and practical, applicable sermons that apply to people’s daily lives — remain a real draw for folks,” said Scott Thumma of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research”

    There are quite a few misnomers in this article. First of all, mega churches are mission minded in only one way: Get more people in the church. That is the extent of their member ‘evangelizing’: invite them to some activity at church and then if they like us, they will like our Jesus that we made up. He is real nice. Hardly the same thing Hudson Taylor or Lottie Moon were thinking.

    Mega churches are about increasing ‘Churchianity’. If you listen real close to mega church people, you will hear lots about their church. They usually know very little deep doctrine. That is because you do not grow huge churches teaching the hard truths of sanctification. That is NOT a church growth strategy that brings in ‘nickels and noses’. Topical sermons on ‘felt needs’ is a church growth strategy.

    One felt need is to be told that because you are here and ‘one of us’, you will be ‘raptured out’. No need to worry as long as you continue to attend and tithe. These churches, for the most part, are built on the dead bones of unbelievers. But they do pay their staff well and provide an avenue of ‘celebrity’ for not only the pastoral staff but even ‘worship’ singers.

    Oh, and this is JUST my opinion based on experiences with such places.

  3. Kyle Barrett September 22, 2008 at 12:34 pm #

    Lydia…

    The mega churches (3000+ in attendance) that I’m aware of are actually some of the most mission minded churches I know of. John Piper is the patron saint of missions today and he pastors a mega chruch! Mark Driscoll’s church in Seattle (the most under churched city in the US) gives 10% of its budget to planting churches. That number doesn’t even include matters of time or non-monetary resources that they give to mission. My home church would not be considered as theologically sharp as either of the previous churches but they send hundreds of members on short term trips each year and give tens of thousands of dollars to support international missions work. It’s not fair to say that they are entirely one-dimensional and want only to grow there own little kingdom. I’m not sure why we are so quick to throw stones at mega churches as if being small were THE defining mark of a faithful church. A church can be big for the wrong reasons just as much as it can be small for the wrong reasons.

    Charity in all things…

    Kyle

  4. Joshua September 22, 2008 at 12:54 pm #

    Lydia,

    I might ask which megachurch have you “experienced”? Because it sounds like to me you’ve only been to a certain megachurch in Houston church, whose pastor writes about how to have your best life.

    Why I ask, is that you seem to be saying the same ole thing that everyone says, that this article is seeming to thrwart.

  5. BennyUF September 22, 2008 at 2:55 pm #

    Cool blog denny.

    Kyle,

    You are so right! I am a gay man serving Jesus in a mega church. They have so embraced me and my lifestyle, just like Jesus would have! My favorite verse is Matt 28:19-20, and I love mission trips!

    Lydia,

    I am sorry you do not like mega churches.. Like Kyle said, you should give them another shot!

    Thanks for the time.
    Benny

    PS. Denny, you better watch out for my Gators and my man Tebow!

  6. Steve Hayes September 22, 2008 at 4:46 pm #

    Denny,

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve heard people bash megachurches for years now, and it always perplexes me. I have some issues with churches that are all about entertainment and lack substance, but most of the megachurches that I’ve attended are objects of ridicule simply because they’re big. That’s not a very good reason for being upset with a church.

    Anyway, this ought to help put to rest the idea that just because a church is big it can’t be good. That notion is simply foolish.

  7. Paul September 22, 2008 at 6:11 pm #

    Steve,

    I see both sides of this debate.

    Pro: a church that big means that it has resources that no 100 member church can possibly have.

    Con: The seekers that usually go to these churches first can easily get lost in the fray.

    Pro: A church that big means that small groups, Bible studies and other such things are a necessity.

    Con: Churches that big often (but not always) play to the lowest common denominators when it comes to sermons.

    I’ve been to mega churches that would make you want to vomit.

    I’ve also been to mega churches that are every single thing you could ever hope for a good church to be.

    Personally, I am not at all shocked that mega churches are more evangelical. And, let’s face facts here, they DO serve a purpose. And in the case of Driscoll or Piper, it’s kinda hard to fault them. Piper is an oratory master, and Driscoll is simply filling a hole where there was very obviously a need.

    Mega churches are not my cup of tea. But, if you’re at a Bible believing one that doesn’t add and subtract where an off base pastor sees fit, then right on.

  8. John September 22, 2008 at 6:29 pm #

    “Piper is an oratory master”

    You kidding me? He usually loses me after about 2 and a half minutes. Most of the time he’s kind of monotone, and he assumes that his listeners know all of his systematic theological terms. I find him quite boring personally. Though you may like his sermons and the content, speaking-wise I find him quite lacking.

    Now, even though I can’t stand the guy, Rod Parsley is an oratory master. That dude can speak (he just has terrible theology).

  9. Lydia September 22, 2008 at 6:52 pm #

    Driscoll? The sex questions and cussing pastor? The same one who blamed pastors wives letting themselves go for Haggard’s fall? The very one Piper promotes? Piper lost me a few years back on his ‘Christian Hedonism’ which is an oxymoron but makes great shock copy. Now it is the ‘Scream of the Damned’ referring to Jesus on the Cross. Piper has had too much success for too long and has become a shock jock preacher trying to appeal to the 20 somethings. Let’s just hope he is NOT exporting this stuff in his great missions work.

    Isn’t Piper the one who wrote that women should be careful when giving instructions to a man that they won’t look like they are ‘teaching’ them?

  10. Lydia September 22, 2008 at 6:57 pm #

    Gentlemen,

    I would not expect you to think any differently about mega churches. They surely appeal to your love of the institutionalization of the Body. The hierarchies, the high salaries, the masses hanging on your every word dying to get near you. You might even get a body guard! At the very least, you will be guaranteed lots of speaking engagements and book contracts to supplement your high salary and a very nice office away from the unwashed masses. They might even give you the title: Pastor/CEO.

    It surely appeals much more than a country church of 40 people where you are just a humble servant cleaning toilets on Monday morning because you cannot afford a janitor.

  11. Lydia September 22, 2008 at 7:03 pm #

    BTW: I thought most of you guys would think Baylor was too liberal to listen to. What is Baylor’s stand on women pastors?

  12. Joshua September 22, 2008 at 10:57 pm #

    I don’t know who put the chip on your shoulder, Lydia, but its pretty nice sized it sounds like. You still didn’t state what your experiences was, by the way. I am only asking what personal experiences you’ve had, not what you’ve read at or assumed based on something you do not have first hand experience in.

    And I don’t know if I could say Baylor is THAT liberal to make a conclusion as they have.

  13. Kyle Barrett September 22, 2008 at 11:20 pm #

    “Driscoll? The sex questions..”

    He preaches on sex because the Bible talks about sex.

    “…and cussing pastor?”

    Youthful immaturity and sin which he has publically repented of. I’ve listened to the majority of his sermons from the last 2+ years and have yet to hear anything which is clearly a cuss word. Some gray areas but nothing explicit.

    “The same one who blamed pastors wives letting themselves go for Haggard’s fall?”

    A poor choice of words which he publically repented of on the Resurgence blog.

    Again, charity in all things…

    Kyle

  14. Nathan September 23, 2008 at 9:18 am #

    Part of the difficulty with this post is that the article by the Washington Post gives no deliniation on what type of mega-churches were surveyed or what types of small churches were surveyed.

    The survey needed to be, at the minimum, across one denomination, or at least show denominational tendencies in order to prove or disprove the statement.

    Also, there was no mention of church membership averages over a timeline or baptisms by year, which again points to denominational discrepancies which can distort statistics.

    This article reminds me of big-city versus small-town debates in regards to which is better to raise a family. Nobody ever wins that debate. At the end of the day, each person or family needs to decide which suits them better.

    Of course, from a spiritual standpoint, content over glitz would seem to me to be the most desirable trait.

  15. Lydia September 23, 2008 at 9:26 am #

    “He preaches on sex because the Bible talks about sex.”

    1 Corin 7?

    I am sure Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand worried about their sexual relationship all those years they were tortured in a Romanian prison for HIS NAME sake.

    Grow up, friend. And tell Driscoll to grow up, too.

    We are Laodicea.

  16. Lydia September 23, 2008 at 9:32 am #

    “Also, there was no mention of church membership averages over a timeline or baptisms by year, which again points to denominational discrepancies which can distort statistics.”

    Most mega’s have NO clue who goes to their church. Several megas even put on a campaign to try and get people who attended to join. Some went all out and put computer kiosks all over the church and all you had to do was log on and sign up! They also have people who attend but never join. And people who join but never come back. They even have people who are members of other churches and attend but won’t join!

    Never believe published numbers for mega membership. They have NO clue and are guessing. One mega that published membership of 18,000 had to revise that number after a membership campaign to try and find out who many actually went there. Seems they came up with about 10,000 (that included the AAA meetings and other 12 steppers that met there).

    Oh yes, just like the NT church. (sigh)

  17. Lydia September 23, 2008 at 9:36 am #

    “A poor choice of words which he publically repented of on the Resurgence blog.”

    If it had not been in his heart in the first place, it would not have come out. He repented when the public outcry got loud and threatened his credibility as a pastor.

    I just hope his wife is never in some horrible disfiguring accident or maybe gets breast cancer or something. And I pray he really did have a change of heart and was convicted of his immaturity and selfishness.

  18. Nathan September 23, 2008 at 9:46 am #

    Lydia,

    Simply because you believe that Piper and/or Driscoll are not “acceptble” pastors does not mean that every mega-church is bad.

    Do you really think that every small church has pastors who don’t fall into similar situations. A mega-church may be exposed by the media because of their size, but there are many “clan” churches of smaller size that dictate every move that is made.

    Again, without better gathering and reporting of data, statistics really don’t show much. Numbers are the easiest way to manipulate an argument and I think that is certainly what the Washington Post has done.

  19. Joshua September 23, 2008 at 9:58 am #

    “Again, without better gathering and reporting of data, statistics really don’t show much. Numbers are the easiest way to manipulate an argument and I think that is certainly what the Washington Post has done.”

    And with Lydia’s avoidance of my question of what true personal experience she has, I tend to say the same thing of her argument.

  20. Kyle Barrett September 23, 2008 at 10:15 am #

    “1 Corin 7?”

    …and Song of Solomon, Deuteronomy, Exodus, Leviticus, Galatians, Ephesisans, Matthew, Hebrews…

    “I am sure Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand worried about their sexual relationship all those years they were tortured in a Romanian prison for HIS NAME sake.”

    2 different contexts Lydia. Richard and Sabrina needed to hear “My power is perfected in weakness”. Driscoll’s church needs to hear “Hold the marriage bed in honor among you”.

    “If it had not been in his heart in the first place, it would not have come out.”

    Sin still lives in ALL of us, even pastors. Thank God He works to work it out of us.

    CHARITY!!!! Please!!!!

    Kyle

  21. Lydia September 23, 2008 at 11:06 am #

    “And with Lydia’s avoidance of my question of what true personal experience she has, I tend to say the same thing of her argument.”

    And what are your bonafides for disagreeing? :o)

  22. Lydia September 23, 2008 at 11:08 am #

    “Driscoll’s church needs to hear “Hold the marriage bed in honor among you”.”

    And when persecution comes they will be ready for the marriage bed. Strange how for thousands of years pastors did not feel the need to answer questions about oral sex in front of a mixed audience.

    Again, Grow UP.

  23. Lydia September 23, 2008 at 12:58 pm #

    http://www.sliceoflaodicea.com/emerging-church/pulpit-magazine-on-mark-driscoll-and-harsh-language/

    Looks like some others are waking up to the truth about Piper and Driscoll

  24. Chris September 23, 2008 at 1:34 pm #

    Lydia, Piper or Driscoll aside are you saying that all mega churches are bad? Are you saying teaching from the bible is bad. i.e. sex?

    I am a little unclear what exactly your point is.

    Thanks!

  25. Lydia September 23, 2008 at 5:00 pm #

    “Lydia, Piper or Driscoll aside are you saying that all mega churches are bad? Are you saying teaching from the bible is bad. i.e. sex?”

    Teaching from the Bible is bad? What a strange question to ask because I have a problem with Driscoll talking about oral sex to the pew sitters. That is quite a leap, my friend.

    One wonders if those poor people really understand what happened on the cross. I know it is not as exciting to some as sex or as self gratifying. Could we ever stop learning about that? No, it is riches to mine forever and we will even be mining those riches in heaven! The scriptures have more about that, even in the OT, to mine than sex. And it is much more important. As a matter of fact, if we really understand what happened on the cross, I think we will understand these other more personal topics better and will be able to prioritize accordingly. :o)

    Yes, Paul did teach on abstaining from sexaul immorality but I do not find where he gives sermons on great sex or gets into the details like we see so much of today, ad nauseum.

    I am not convinced SoS is simply about human sexual relationships. (If you said some of those things to your wife, she would slap you :o) But, I know it sells big time to market it as such with conferences, books, etc. It is the number one topic in our culture. So, I guess that is being culturally relevant. :o)

    Mega’s have reached their pinnacle. (Except for maybe Osteen who is a postive thinking speaker much like Peale was) They know it, too. Now they are taking over smaller churches (and FINALLY planting churches..yeah!) and developing satellite churches in order to grow. Hmmm… why not do that in the first place. (There is a reason why that was not done in the first place because the goal has always been numbers which brings us ‘Churchianity’)

    As the mega numbers dwindle (which is a secret they keep well), you see more and more bizarre programs, worship methods and church growth strategies employed. (Isn’t it ironic they all do ‘small groups’ which function like a church?) They might even try their hand at selling sermons and skits online or build a cafe to bring in more bucks. Also, conferences have become quite a money maker. Everyone is doing conferences these days as it sells books and pays well.

    Have you ever wondered how a mega church has ‘spiritual unity’? Have you ever noticed how they focus on horizontal ‘relationship unity’ instead? And, the layers and layers of bureaucracy keep a lot of really bad stuff hidden from the pew sitter.

    I predict a time will come when it will be harder and harder to pay the light bill in these temples while maintaining the high salaries. People are starting to see through it and looking for more transparency and less ‘celebrity’ Christians to support.
    This may happen even sooner with the financial crash. Money is the glue that holds mega’s up.

    I also predict (I am doing my Carnac impression for those of you over 40) there will come a time, if the Lord tarries, when Chinese missionaries will come here to show us how to really follow Christ instead of humans.

    Of course, these are just my opinions which are worth very little here. Especially being female. But I love you guys anyway. :o)

  26. Chris September 24, 2008 at 1:17 pm #

    Thanks for the clarification Lydia!

    I will never understand the “chip” on some folks shoulders about large churches.

    Is your church perfect? Of course not so instead of using your energy and time being critical of other churches why not use that time to make YOUR church more Christ-like?

    I can’t help but feel this all is an orchestrated distraction fueled by the enemy to provoke dissidence in Gods family.

    And for your own spiritual health stay away from sites like sliceoflaodicea

    Most people who claim a Christian watchdog ministry are neither qualified, worthy nor chosen for that role.

  27. Jason September 24, 2008 at 2:24 pm #

    Lydia,

    Your tone is arrogant and you basically disregarded a brother’s admission of sin and immaturity. That is abut as ungenerous as you can get.

    Part of the areas of spiritual attack on the congregation at Mars Hill Church is sexual sin. Would you prefer that the Pastor NOT address areas of sinfulness and weakness? Would you prefer that he ignore some sin in order to not offend YOU?

    I think it is you that needs to grow up.

  28. Brian (Another) September 24, 2008 at 4:52 pm #

    Lydia: I don’t understand such antipathy towards large churches. And while I crafted a response, I decided not to get drawn offsides. Suffice it to say that some very large churches are like eating cotton candy (and I think that is the thrust of the comments you’ve made), while others stir their congregation on to try to know God more.

    Also, to tie into your Carnac, Africa has already begun sending missionaries here.

  29. Brian (Another) September 24, 2008 at 5:02 pm #

    Lydia (or all?):
    Perhaps I’m missing something here (I have heard Driscoll, but don’t subscribe to his podcasts, etc.). I was looking at the MH media site and the last several sermons seem to be:

    SoS 1:1-7
    John 17:13-26
    John 17:1 – 13
    Jonah (no Driscoll)
    Jonah (no Driscoll)
    Jonah (no Driscoll)
    Jonah (no Driscoll)
    Matthew 26:36-44
    Matthew 6:1-15

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, but saying ”One wonders if those poor people really understand what happened on the cross.” would indicate to me that it is something that is recurring over and over in his teaching or that there would be very surface-oriented messages (beyond what is listed is simply more on God Sends, God Saves, God Transforms, etc., I would assume a less meat-and-potatoes teaching given your comments.).

    I think this means I go back 5 yards.

  30. Steve Hayes September 24, 2008 at 5:38 pm #

    I pastor a small country church, but I still like some megachurches. I guess I am Laodicea.

  31. Kyle Barrett September 25, 2008 at 4:51 pm #

    Brian…

    The “God Sends”, etc. messages are from a 10 or 12 week series he just finished recently that basically is their new members class. It was more or less a 12 Biblicial Theology crash course. He’s preached through Nehemiah and Phillipians in the last 2 years. Even when he preaches topically, he’s textual. Very meat and potatoes. No cotton candy.

    Kyle

  32. Brian (Another) September 25, 2008 at 5:17 pm #

    Kyle:

    Oh, yes, definitely well noted! I don’t subscribe to Driscoll’s podcast and I don’t get a chance to listen real often, but I did catch the beginning of the “crash course” and I listed to all of the Philippians. It was very solid. When I wrote that “God Sends”, etc., I was trying to demonstrate that he isn’t preaching week-in, week-out on “God gives you stuff”, etc.

    I should check out his Nehemiah. Thanks, Kyle!

  33. Lydia September 25, 2008 at 5:26 pm #

    Hi guys, I can appreciate your thoughts and where you are coming from. See,I am not on a pastoral/ministerial career track so I see things a bit differently.

    But, I would urge you to read the NT without your pastoral/seminary blinders of hierarchy and professional clergy on a career track. Read it to understand how the Body really operated without special buildings, programs, events, big money, high salaries, etc.

    I do wonder sometimes how many of our celebrity pastors and leaders would continue for say…50 grand a year, no conference speaking fees or book royalities. After all, the average American family lives less than that a year. It would be delicious to see such humility.

  34. Nathan Boyette September 25, 2008 at 11:30 pm #

    While I am totally willing to admit that there are probably some pastors of some mega churches that get paid a whole lot, I think you are being pretty uncharitable to a lot of pastors… do you know there hearts OR what they actually get paid?

    As far as Piper, which has gotten some heat in this thread, he does not exactly live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. He purposefully lives in the inner city so that he can be where people need to be ministered to. Also, practically everything he has every published or preached is available for free on his website… how is that living away from the “unwashed masses” or worrying about a “high salary”?

    I would hope that if I was in his circumstances that I would be humble enough to give away my books and sermons so as to benefit the entire body.

  35. Paul September 25, 2008 at 11:42 pm #

    “I do wonder sometimes how many of our celebrity pastors and leaders would continue for say…50 grand a year, no conference speaking fees or book royalities. After all, the average American family lives less than that a year. It would be delicious to see such humility.”

    The average American family also doesn’t work as hard as a guy that has to tend to a flock of five figures, do speaking engagements and write books, either.

    Now, I will give you this…$50K in most of the country is a nice living wage. In Chicago, New York, L.A., Boston, S.F. or Seattle, it’s about what a homeless guy makes panhandling, but anywhere else, it’ll get you a house, a car and a subscription to Touchstone.

    But, to say that a family deserves no compensation for a husband working over a weekend or longer? That’s not humility, that’s foolishness. Or, since a gig isn’t too far off from a speaking engagement, ask my wife if I can play a gig for free in order to prove my humility.

    To say that a man deserves no payment for the fruit of his labors (and I can tell you from personal experience, writing can be grueling work) is also foolishness.

    It’s one thing to say that a pastor shouldn’t be getting rich off of his flock. It’s an entirely different request to say that a family should live what would amount to an uncomfortable lifestyle so that you can feel better about their salary.

  36. Kyle Barrett September 26, 2008 at 8:47 am #

    Anecdotal but evidence none the less – I have a friend who is moving to NYC to work with a church planting team. He and his wife have a son and are expecting twins in December. The rent on their 1 bedroom, 750 sq ft flat in Manhattan (where the church is) is around $3000/month. That’s more than I make in a month right now living in Louisville, KY. $50K will hardly pay the rent and utilities in NYC.

  37. Brian (Another) September 26, 2008 at 10:41 am #

    ….but what if it’s a military clock?……..

    Just giving the benefit of the doubt. Or, if it’s a blinky 12:00 clock, it usually has the little dot, so 12:00 no dot is 12 am, but it’s broken, so who cares? And is the hand broken? Like the minute hand? In which case, it would be right for a period of time assuming the hour hand is not moving. Or, what happens if that nifty digital one is just missing a couple of lights? And it shows that it’s “E” o’clock? Is it right and broken? And what about a sundial in the shade? Is it broken? It’s not right! And just why exactly do Hawaiians eat more spam per capita? Do they have too many pigs? Assuming spam is really made from a pig.

    As the late George Carlin once said, “These are the thoughts that kept me outta the really good schools.”

  38. Brian (Another) September 26, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    Lydia:

    Your analysis of the commenters/viewers here is that all or some (at least those who disagree with you) have pastorship (or ministerial* track) in their sights. I dare say that isn’t the case for most here (not for me, for one).
    Nathan and Paul hit on the unfounded derision you throw in a very widespread manner. And throw stones all you want, but the researchers were saying that according to their polls (which are always in a grey-application area) were indicating that these megas you so casually lump into a greedy ball demonstrate overall a more evangelical view of faith (see the comments on judgment, witnessing to strangers, witnessing to their friends, etc.). As put, their faith is a big part of their identity. I really do enjoy small churches. They definitely can (and many do, the same as a mega) preach the gospel, not just happy-happy-fun-time (or only fire and brimstone). Given your harsh comments, should we infer that you see the effects as bad (I’m going to go out on a limb and say no, but I’ll let you spin it)?

    * – I would assume that all of us should seek to minister. If you’re not ministering in some sense, you need to check your priorities. But I think you only meant in an official capacity (e.g. someone who oversees ministry to the elderly, singles, motorcyclists, musicians, etc.), right?

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