Tim Suttle has an interesting article at the Huffington Post about “The Failure of the Megachurch.” I don’t agree with the entire analysis here, but this one line is worth highlighting the whole article:
If the church is the body of Christ, then the mega-church is a body on steroids.
Suttle goes on to give three reasons why the megachurch is no longer a healthy church model:
Mega-church size insulates the body from the natural pains and tensions which keep it healthy.
Mega-church size inhibits diversity.
Mega-church size exploits the mega-church pastor.
The essential elements of any church are the right preaching of the gospel, the administration of the ordinances, and discipline. The Bible does have something to say about how each of these is to be done and how the body is to be organized and run. What is missing from this article are these biblical foundations. Biblical ecclesiology has to be the standard by which any model is measured, including the megachurch model. But there is not much of that in this article. Pragmatic considerations of what works and doesn’t work are at best secondary concerns. At the end of the day, large numbers or small numbers should not be the ultimate issue. The fundamental issue is whether or not a church conforms to the New Testament pattern.
Read the rest here.
Here is my favorite line from the entire article:
“The solution is to stop focusing on strategies meant to help a church become the next big thing, and simply be the church in your neighborhood in whatever form that takes.”
My wife is my head count person. She passed me a note as we ate lunch with some folks from church this Sunday that said “29”. In the mega-church mentality an attendance of 29 is an epic failure. We are not big enough. We don’t have a nice enough facility. We don’t have enough programs. In the context of our church, which a little over a year ago only had a Sunday morning attendance of 8-10, then 29 is a mighty blessing from God. I’m blessed to know all 29 of those people by name. We may never be much bigger than that. But I believe God has called us together as a group to worship him and accomplish a particluar work for him.
Success mentality makes us look to numbers as a guide of how good we are doing. That is not always the right way to look at things. I love small churches, and I’m glad called me to be the pastor of one. Thanks for sharing the article.
The number of people directly represents potential changed lives. I for one would want the highest number possible and settle for nothing less!
Why not start more churches then? Why should we create mega-churches? The mega-church feeds the consumer mentality of American culture.
How do you effectively carry out church discipline in a mega-church? Matthew 18 assumes that there is a loving family community where everyone knows everyone.
I am certainly in support of starting more churches. A church start requires a called church starter who is willing to go. That’s a huge limiting factor. And the truth is most church starts come out of mega-churches that provide financial support and people support.
I agree some mega-churches fall prey to feeding the consumer mentality but certainly not all. No reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s not the system that’s flawed but the people running it.
Church growth is a good thing not a bad one. We need to have a spot available for anyone who wants to come.
Any large church is made of up smaller groups and if structured well, the small group can provide all the things that are needed by but are unable to be accomplished in such a large gathering.
Denny is correct that the article is thin on any biblical or theological content. Lacking that, I see little basis for pontification for or against megachurches.
The author seems to take some cheap shots at big churches without significant justification. Seems to me he might have found something better to do, but perhaps he is just trying to earn a living by kibitzing on the church scene. That motive I can understand.