A colleague of mine wrote a blog post today entitled, “Why I Hate Mega-Churches.”
But it’s a bait-and-switch (which he admits halfway through). He likes mega-churches and, by his writing (in this and other pieces I’ve read), would probably like to lead one or build one.
Fine, I guess. But when I look around the world, one thing I don’t tend to say to myself is, “Gosh, this world needs another mega-church.”
A good thing about mega-churches? They have a lot of resources to do a lot of good in the world (should they choose to).
The consolidation of people and money under one mega-roof creates mega-possiblities (a quick qualifier: if one does some math to subtract the ecological and sociological impact from a mega-building, mega-pastors, mega-salaries, mega-parking lots, and mega-messaging-machines that often tout a message that I’d consider more damaging than helpful, the possible good shrinks considerably).
A bad thing about mega-churches?
No, seriously, I think that’s a bad thing. The anonymity that’s possible by slipping into stadium seating creates this wonderful silo-effect for the participant. It makes you feel like the mega-speaker in the mega-space is speaking directly to you…and yet you never actually interact.
And there’s no need to! You have thousands of others around you who can take up their time. Why should you?
Also, I imagine it’s a little difficult to talk about giving yourself up for your neighbor when you’re sitting on a building whose footprint is effectively the size of a neighborhood. Can we talk about the God who empties for the sake of humanity if we’re looking to fill our lives with mega? Is there no cognitive dissonance there?
And, from my office, another problem with mega-churches is that it’s mega-taxing as a pastor to care for so many people…so, often you don’t. It doesn’t happen. The voice of Sunday morning is not the voice of the hospital or home visit. That’s not always bad, mind you. Lots of people can and should do such care. But there’s something about knowing the people you’re serving, and knowing them well.
Listen, I feel taxed enough keeping 300 people’s issues, concerns, schedules, and needs clear in my head. The possibility of 10,000 people sends me into convulsions.
Another problem I have with mega-churches is that I think mega-churches teach, implicitly or explicitly, that mega-blessings and mega-sized programs and mega-sized hopes and dreams are what fuels the world and counts for success in life.
And they’re not.
My colleague says in his opinion piece that mega-churches seem to understand that God is found amongst the poor and the lonely because of all the good work they do for the poor and the lonely with their mega-resources.
If I may be so blunt: bull.
Such romanticizing of mega-sized resources and mega-sized programs for the poor is a mega-sized dream.
If it is true that mega-sized churches really did believe God is best found amongst the poor and the lonely, the pastors would lead the charge there by putting the mega-sized buildings up for auction or, as a little church here in Wrigleyville (Chicago) has done, take out the pews and allow the homeless to sleep on the floor during the week.
That’s mega-voice with a congregation of 40 on a Sunday morning.
Finally, I guess I’ll also say that I don’t like mega-churches because it just feeds the mega-monster in the American (not exclusively, but largely) personality that bigger is better, success is godly, and fancy is freeing.
Jesus, who had a large following but just over a dozen main players, who had no job, no home, and by any modern measure of success was, well, not successful, gives me no indication that mega-churches are anything but mega.
They are no more church than any other size gathering, no matter how you spin it. And despite my colleague’s parsing of “God in mystery” and “God that repels” as motivating factors for church size, I don’t think the argument for building church empires lies in how people relate to God.
By and large I think the truth lies in how people relate to egos, to money, and to what typical “success” is supposed to look like. This is why we have mega-churches: because we like mega for all the wrong reasons.
But, lets be honest, I don’t like many small churches, either.
Mostly because I usually find that they think they should be mega, and get depressed because they’re not. Or because they say they don’t want to be mega, but secretly do.
I like churches who are honest about themselves, who they are, and confident that in God, they can do all they are called to do in this world.
Mega is so attractive on paper…
Funny. Nothing about Jesus is attractive on paper.