Skip to comments.Has the Megachurch Lost Its Luster?
Posted on 12/11/2013 9:44:41 AM PST by Gamecock
In the future, the 1990s and early 2000s may well be called the Megachurch Era by ecclesiastical historians. Suburban commuter culture, television broadcasting, the Internet, the book publishing industry, the rise of self-help gurus, digital media technology, and the contemporary sounds of Jesus People music all provided essential ingredients for enormous churches with a plethora of programs. All that the ingredients needed were men with the vision, initiative, and charisma to muster together like-minded individuals for a common purpose: planting, building, and increasing a congregation (well beyond the previous conceptions of a large congregation).
And those men came. Churches with multi-site campuses, parking garages, jumbo-trons, award-winning praise bands, laser shows, tremendous charities, political endorsements, and even in-house coffee shops sprang up across the nation. Thousands of peopleunchurched, disenchanted, or pushed out of liberalizing Mainline congregations (or stringent fundamentalist ones)flocked to these new watering holes. The droves started having offspring as smaller congregations dwindled away. A new way of doing church was in town, and it seemed to be primed for being the ideal model for pastors to emulate if they wanted their congregations to survive the coming millennium.
However, critics of this ecclesiology came to the forefront. They complained of shallow theology, entertainment over discipleship, emotionalism, cults of ego, lack of accountability, giganticism (in terms of architecture, size, and theology), consumerism, the prosperity gospel, lack of reverence, therapeutic spirituality, and a host of other spiritual maladies. Most devastatingly, many of the megachurchs harshest critics came from its own children. In addition, the majority of Americans that remained in smaller congregations also tended to sympathize with these critiques. Indeed, it is almost a truism now to hear a diatribe about the apparent evils of megachurch-style religion.
The glamour of novelty has disappeared. The very term megachurch invokes an immediate reaction in Christians: disgust, a balanced shake of the head, or admiration. And this is where the question lies for the religious thinker, Has the megachurch lost its luster? Very few in the United States balk in abject horror or astonished wonder at the idea of the megachurch any more. In other words, the megachurch recoil in the Christian world has finally calmed down. Megachurches are there; we know what they are about; we debate their merits and demerits; we make big life decisions based on our convictions. This does not mean that there is no error here, but it does mean that the megachurch has become a normalized piece of furniture in the room of faith.
So what will be the future ecclesiastical landscape? I think that the megachurch will be a fixture in religion for the foreseeable future. However, it definitely wont be hailed as the definitive way of the future in any sense. Some will continue to function as normal. In the larger scheme of things, some of these will act as feeders to other Christian congregations in the area, thus furthering Christs kingdom in a more roundabout way. I saw this firsthand in the DC area. Seekers, the curious, and nominal believers can come to enjoy a show, hear a sermon, remain unperturbed in the enormous crowds, and enjoy the energy and facilities of a megachurch. However, if these same people want depth, they will be referred to small groups. But, more often than not, hungry Christians will begin to attend smaller congregations with more robust, less open theologies and more engaged membership care.
It seems that other megachurch congregations will, in fact, transform. As this fascinating Christianity Today article reports, New Life Church of Colorado Springs (formerly under the leadership of Ted Haggard) has begun to alter its approach to pastoral leadership, worship style, churchly layout, and even the methods of charity work. New Life Church is starting to look more like a more traditional large church, the kind that was a common sight throughout the churchs history.
Time will reveal the destiny of the megachurch movement. God only know its full fruits and meaning.
I never did like a church that got much larger than say 400 families, 150 or so regular attendees. Gets hard to know your church members.
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I honestly don't see this happening. What I see happening (and in fact is already happening) is mega-churches going into a multi-site model, i.e. turning into their own nondenominational denomination, wherein locations act as feeders into other locations.
As a Catholic, looking in, the problem with with many of these megachurches is that they are basically non-denominational and family run affairs-—like the Hagees, the Osteens, Joyce Meyers, the Schullers. They may have great preachers, great followings, and great buildings. But what they don’t have is an enduring INSTITUTION. Once the great pastor retires or passes, the great megachurch tends to follow suit. Case in point: The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove. Now going to be converted into a Catholic Cathedral and the seat of the Catholic Orange County Diocese.
Are we allowed to talk about this, or is this supposed to “be behind the closed doors of a church,” where, I gather, nobody ever discusses anything?
The collapse started back in ‘99 and will continue in all religions.
A Church is a group of people, not a building.
Jesus People Church in Minneapolis used to be huge and did great work.
It collapsed into a black hole starting in ‘89 as costs of running it became the primary goal.
Some people like megachurches, others like small churches. Simple as that.
The first church had 3,000 male members plus their families.
Mega-churches never held any luster for me. After becoming a Christian in 1994, I sought out small churches where the pastor would actually know who I am. Real Christian growth is best achieved in small groups.
They were always a little light on the theology, this is how they attracted so many
Why? I don't think they ever came any where near a majority
I’m thinking that the Church of Bong Hits For Jesus is going to become very popular in WA and CO.
I never had a desire to attend a Megachurch with a pastor who only cared about how many people they could get to give them money!
The near-mega-church we were going to decided to do this - they call it “church planting.” They have several sites. You watch the pastor on the TV screen if you don’t go to the main site. By the time it gets to that I feel like I may as well just watch TV at home.
We went to that church for a long time, but despite our efforts we could never get involved. Finally we left for a smaller church and immediately have gotten connected in.
Have at it!
I agree. It is personality drive, not connected to anything else.
Look at churches that have been in the same locale for generations and that is where the action is. Regardless of denomination.
“A Church is a group of people, not a building...”
Thank you. I really do question some of the mega-churches that have popped up over the last decade. Seems they are more “enterprises” than houses of observance. Besides, if I’m being a good follower of the Lord does he really care whether I do in a one room church house or the giant new religious warehouse out on the bypass next to the Super Wal Mart? Am I more devout or righteous?
Daughter Number Two goes to The Village Church in Denton while a college student. It’s an extension campus from the main church in Flower Mound. Matt Chandler, the preacher, appears by video after the live worship music. It works for them, there’s a really great small group network, and Chandler’s teaching is deep, wide, clever and theologically rock solid. I recommend “The Explicit Gospel” as a great expository book if somebody’s looking for a Christmas present.
The really successful “megachurch” is really an interlocking set of smaller groups within the larger overall structure. Those who try to emulate it without realizing this fail. Those who understand it make it work.
New, successful “megachurches” may spring up and many may fail. The successful ones will generally be structured as I mentioned above.
The Bible says “about 3000 souls”...it didn’t give a break down as to gender!
Many large-church ministers know who their people are. The successful ones do, because they make it their business to know.
Church A has a hundred people year after year. Church B has 500, a thousand, ten thousand, growing by leaps and bounds.
Obviously, Church B is doing something wrong.
No, but it was being pushed by many denominations as the Way of the Future.
The LCMS tried it, but it didn’t fit to well.
My thoughts exactly! Why is one thing good and another bad? There are good megachurches and bad. There are good small churches and bad. Why can’t people attend the church of their choice without feeling the need to criticize another...based on size alone! I am sure any individual church may have problems or error. But, bias based on the size of the church seems uncalled for.
Are they preaching the Gospel, in season and out?
That is the test. Not size.
Of course. I agree with you.
My family of four were member #s 411-414 in a church that has a storied history including the Civil War. It now has over 1500 congregants and is way too large and busy for my taste.
When I had problems or just needed spiritual guidance I could literally go to our church and walk in to the pastor's office and talk. I now have to schedule an appointment with a Layperson or possibly wait a month or more to see the real pastor. That is not going to happen.
I think that’s a fair assessment. They won’t disappear, but neither will they continue to grow-grow-grow...
Personally, as off-putting as this may seem to the typical (supposedly) “non-denominational” mega-church attender (do they even have members?), I think mega-churches correctly serve as a kind of cathedral-center. A place for strong schools and big-name speakers, and a feeder for smaller congregations around.
I too am familiar with the DC N.Va mega-church scene. A gigantic (5,000+) singles fellowship I attended at a mega-church 10 years ago has hardly any of my friends there then still there. They’ve almost all moved on to smaller “real” churches, as the pizzazz has faded...
A mega-church to a normal church is as a big city to a small town. One can only have meaningful community with smaller groups. And community in our time is something people are really starving for.
Catholicism, the Original Mega Church
(1.2 Billion and Growing....)
It’s far from over. Look at John Hagee. There are plenty of others.
As a Catholic, looking in, the problem with with many of these megachurches is that they are basically non-denominational and family run affairs-like the Hagees, the Osteens, Joyce Meyers, the Schullers. They may have great preachers, great followings, and great buildings. But what they dont have is an enduring INSTITUTION. Once the great pastor retires or passes, the great megachurch tends to follow suit. Case in point: The Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove. Now going to be converted into a Catholic Cathedral and the seat of the Catholic Orange County Diocese.
I can't say that I disagree.
I have been very fortunate to have visited many different churches/services in my life in all flavors, denominations, and sizes. I have sat in a room with less than 20 people listening to an anointed man called by God share the Word. And I have been in auditoriums with thousands of Believers listening to anointed speakers called by God share the Word.
I have also visited churches full of mysticism, psychology, worldliness, and all sorts of religious nonsense, that were less spiritually alive than your local bar. Those come in all sizes too.
If the Word is being preached under the anointing of God, size doesn’t matter. God can use 1 anointed man or woman and reach thousands. With technology, He can reach millions. And if you are really thirsty for Truth, even in the most dry place ever, God will find a way to get you filled. Its an exciting time for the Kingdom of God and HIS Church.
For what it’s worth, I definitely prefer being in a smaller parish than a larger one for the same reasons that most here cite. (For me, I consider a “larger parish” to be 3,000 families with 7-8 Masses each weekend and a smaller parish to be <=500 families with maybe 3 Masses each weekend)
With the exception of the occasional “Youth Mass for Life” type of special event or attending a Papal Mass, I cannot wrap my arms around the idea of Mass in a stadium every week...even if it is augmented by small groups. From my perspective, that seems like what these 10,000 - 15,000 person zeta-churches offers their congregants.
Not condemning it...but I just can’t quite comprehend it.
Some relatives have been attending a mega-church. From the descriptions I hear, one of the main motivations of the congregants seems to be the opportunities it affords to enhance their social/love life. For anyone looking for a partner, there are going to be find more potential candidates in a larger church. so why would they switch to a smaller church which might be more about religion than socializing?
Assuming God is present, always of course with that proviso, its different tools in the toolkit. Some preachers, some circumstances, some settings, will reach people that others will never reach.
Some are purposed for reaching the masses. Some are purposed for training them and grounding them. Some for the short haul and some for the long haul.
Its my belief that the Holy Spirit will, can at least, lead you to the place that is for you. And at some point in time he may then lead you to get up and move. Its not a criticism of the place you left, it had its purpose, but its time for you to move.
Again, I am not going to condemn any particular structure. While I think there may be some who are preaching something totally contrary to the teachings of Christ (such as those who preach the so-called "prosperity gospel"), I wouldn't want to characterize all for the errors of some...unless I absolutely knew that this was the case.
I am cautioned in my thoughts by the words of St Paul:
Phil 1:14-18 And many of the brethren in the Lord, growing confident by my bands, are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear. Some indeed, even out of envy and contention; but some also for good will preach Christ. Some out of charity, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. And some out of contention preach Christ not sincerely: supposing that they raise affliction to my bands. But what then? So that by all means, whether by occasion, or by truth, Christ be preached: in this also I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
So unless I have some evidence to the specific issues with a particular person, I am happy that Christ is preached one way or the other.
Megachurches had luster? Who knew?
I go to a big church and, after watching David Barton on Andrew Wommack’s show for two weeks around Thanksgiving (awesome, watch it for free on AW’s website), I need a church willing to get more involved politically. Big churches are too afraid to offend people.
You nailed it.
In my area, the mega-churches are social clubs, not churches.
Okay Gamecock that GIF is like major creepy! That looks like the Great Pit of Carkoon, in Tatooine’s Dune Sea, where Jabba the Hut condemned Luke, Han, and Chewbacca to a slow death in the belly of the Sarlacc.
Wish we had a like button :)
That sounds like a church with a serious problem. And a real need to purge the roles. 150 families with 400 regular attenders would be a healthy, self supporting congregation.
That's just the 115 acre main campus. Don't forget the Prosper and Dallas locations. Although I don't think they have football stadiums, do they?
Speaking of coffee shops, First Baptist Dallas switched from Starbucks to Community after Starbucks made homosexual marriage a 'core corporate value'.
The theology at Village is pretty good, for Baptists.