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Are megachurches too big?

Dr. Scott Thumma wrote Mega Church Myths.* He answers some of the critiques leveled against them based on a survey he did for his book. It’s good fodder for discussion. What are your thoughts on megachurches?   Megachurches are cults of personality In some churches, “the pastor can beco…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Dr. Scott Thumma wrote Mega Church Myths.* He answers some of the critiques leveled against them based on a survey he did for his book. It’s good fodder for discussion. What are your thoughts on megachurches?

Megachurches are cults of personality

In some churches, “the pastor can become the visible symbol of and a potent ‘brand name’ for the church….”  The pastor is the center of the staff and the energy hub around which the congregation revolves. They are often passionate about evangelism.  They are also practical communicators.  They are creative and inquisitive persons who are willing to take risks and make mistakes as they manage the organization and also spiritually lead the congregation.

They are only concerned about themselves
All congregations must address their internal needs, but this also has to be balanced with a reciprocal external, contextual focus….  It has taken time for the megachurches to learn this balance.

Megachurches water down the faith
Most megachurches present a serious, high-commitment Christian message.  They present the Gospel in a culturally sensitive and relevant way.

They are bad for other churches

Megachurches have become resources and ministries to other churches and pastors in their communities.  They have developed teaching networks and alternative training institutions. 

Megachurches grow because of the show
About half the surveyed attendees say something related to the worship style drew them to the church.  Many perceive the worship as “high quality, inviting, and user-friendly. Worship is only one key to growth.  Outreach and evangelism are also key factors.  Megachurches excel at creating the structures and programs that help new people become incorporated into the church rather than drift away.

They are too big

Surveys show that participants feel connected. Mega churches structure
multiple ways for people to interact and form social ties.  They
organize into programs that address individual needs.
A megachurch is defined as a congregation that averages at least 2000 attendees in weekend services.  There are no ‘typical’ megachurches.  They are diverse.  Follow-up information about the book and a list of megachurches is available at www.megachurchmyths.com.
*I’m indebted to David Mays, who sends me summaries of books like the one about this book for free. To subscribe, go here.

Comments (5)

  • Intriguing. I would generally run a mile myself from a megachurch. I have visited very big churches before and was a part of a really big one for a while, but despite what is said above about opportunities being made to connect you, they had all their ministry teams sewn up, and it was hard to find a way to be useful or a part of things. I guess it can cut both ways.

    Interesting that the worship style is a big draw for many. I’m passionate about worship, music is my major area, but I often found the bigger church styles too dictatorial in that you are often overwhelmed by a big volume of sound from the front and all you can do is follow it or not. Sometimes the wall of sound assaulting your ears is so loud, it is hard to find the personal space in your head to think and to respond in intimacy to your God in the middle of it. Maybe that’s another debate between where the corporate ends and the personal begins and how they interplay.

    The most amazing worship I was ever in was in a basement in St Aldate’s Church in Oxford, UK. No-one played any instruments, despite the room being packed with very able musicians. Everyone sang and kept singing and every now and then a new song or a spontaneous song would rise up and everyone would go with it. This went on for way over an hour. Everyone was in it, everyone contributed, and the sense of being a part of something so much bigger than yourself was dynamic. No big stars, no forced leading, no performance, just people loving Jesus and His presence was awesome there.

    Each to his own, you may say. But big crowds can carry a mass mentality and depth can suffer – I don’t say it always does, but it can. I want to really meet God with other Christians, not get swept along by other people’s responses. I guess perhaps there is a deal of personality type in it too. Personally, I opt for the small but intimate and deep given half a chance.

  • St. Mark of the Cross

    Seth, Well put! I believe the Lord is not moving in a mega-anything. He is moving in the hearts of his people, and when they all come together – we are “mega” around the world for him! For many years now I have preached that the only “mega” we need in our lives is a “mega” love for JESUS. God is nourishing a body in Christ, not a “user-friendly”, mega church/ministry. Keeping our eyes on Jesus,not any movement.

  • I don’t think megachurches are bad simply for being large. I think that there is some strength in having that many pooled resources and people to grow with. There are some unique pitfalls they can fall into (the guy with the globe behind him and the shiny hair is a bit scary to me), but so can’t a little church.

    I think that churches can thrive and fail for all the same reasons, regardless of size. The real problem is that the church is run by humans and we screw up from time to time. Two people can screw up, or 5,000 people can screw upit’s all the same issues. It’s just when 5,000 people screw up, it’s a bit more noticeable. It’s kind of like airline travelsafe, but when it’s bad it’s bad.

    Tiny churches are folding and making bad choices everyday, we just don’t read about them in the news. And that’s what I have to say about that.

  • If it don’t bother GOD it don’t bother me.I go to a small church and I like it because that is where I feel like God has me.but if I could go to bro. Jakes church in dallas to visit I would go and have a great time.who am i to say anything about a mega church if GOD established it gooooo for it.by the way it does seem to be a mega kind of world and universe.probably kind of small to GOD .pray BIG so you can give all the credit to HIM.

  • posts 1 & 2 by Carol and Mark have/are experiancing a more real body life, organic body life. sometimes to find out what something IS we first find out what it ISN’T. like those connect the dots pics. 100 dots scattered around on paper and each dot is numbered 1-100, for example. they are placed there strategically for an outline or image to be. we take that pencil and follow the numbers accordingly by drawing a line between the numbers, thus, bringing out the image. then the teacher says “now what is it?” as she shows you several colored pics for comparison. so we say “a bird.” “thats right now lets put some color to it.” well, anyway this has been alot of my experiance or journey and I know what it is NOT. it sure isn’t the mega church setting! not to say that there is not one drop of living water that could be had in those enviroments. I think if/when we are broken enough in our life we become teachable and are able to be guided into ALL TRUTH as Jesus has said. some folk have SOME TRUTH on a matter. and some matters are very important. in fact critical to sustain and maintain the life and purposes of God. I heard someone say that truth or the finding out of the truth is like peeling back an onion. layers to peel through till ya get to the end of it or the core of it. oh, and many tears as you get there! thank you our Father…

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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