I keep hearing people talking about “megachurches” as though they are all part of a denomination with one mega-pastor leading them all. Earlier this week, I heard the phrase “the megachurch model.” What? A megachurch model? I’ve never heard of a seminar on How to Become a Megachurch. I’ve never heard of a conference advertising Ten Steps to Starting Your Own Megachurch."
The description for megachurch in Wikipedia calls it “the megachurch movement” – as though there is a coordinated effort to take over the landscape with megachurches. I’ve been a pastor in a so-called megachurch for more than ten years…you’d think I’d be aware if there were a movement of megachurches.
I remember the day when Granger was first labeled a megachurch. It was in early 2001 and we were meeting with a consultant. He was telling us how he worked with many megachurches like ours. Someone stopped him and said, “A mega-what?” He explained that any church over 2,000 was in a category of its’ own called megachurch.
Prior to that day, our team had never once spoken about trying to be a megachurch. From my earliest days at Granger with 350 people in the congregation, our conversations were focused on helping more people take a step toward Jesus. We talked about reaching more of our unchurched community with the love of Jesus and about making an ever-greater impact on the needs in our community.
The result? We grew. Pretty soon we had 500, then 700, then 1500, and eventually 2,000 – which suddenly put us in the category of a big, bad, evil megachurch surrounded with criticism and myths. Am I being overly sensitive? You tell me--The much-touted article from last week on the impending collapse of evangelicalism changes the term from megachurch to “consumer-driven megachurch.” The author lumps all megachurches together and describes them as being more interested in relevance than doctrine. He says of megachurches that they are “compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith.”
The author concludes that he expects the “landscape of megachurch vacuity to be around for a very long time.” How awful. What could be worse than a bunch of churches across America that are so effective at lifting up the name of Jesus that huge crowds gather? What could be worse than having so many people meeting Jesus and having their lives transformed by Jesus, that they just can’t stop telling their friends?
I’m determined to celebrate what God is doing wherever it is happening. Whether it is in a gathering of 3 people or 3,000 or 3 million. I don’t have enough brains or time to figure out the motives of the hearts of the leaders in another church. I’ll just celebrate what they are doing and let God sort it out later.
After all, it’s kind of biblical: “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.” I Corinthians 4:5
Am I all worked up about nothing? What do you think?