Are Mega-Churches Evil?

John Armstrong has a thought-provoking post on parsing the critiques of the mega-church. I have too many times been critical of the mega-church for several reasons (one of which Armstrong points out below). While it is true that the possibility for superficiality is higher in a mega-church than a church of 100 people, it does not necessitate that. What are your thoughts? Before you comment, read the excerpt below (even better, go to the article).

Why do people attack megachurches? I am not completely sure but I know why I once did. I felt they were, generally speaking, not faithful to the gospel. I also felt that they lowered the standards for moral formation and discipleship. I do not see hard evidence that this is true at all. Most of those who attack the lack of gospel clarity in the megachurch do so because they believe that they alone, and their few zealous friends and followers, preach the gospel faithfully. They reason semething like this—if you preach faithfully you will not, in most cases, draw huge crowds (because so few are being truly converted today). So, these people conclude that these megachurch pastors do not preach the gospel as faithfully as I (we) do. This is not only patently false, it is rooted in unadulterated sectarianism and pride. Some of the biggest promoters of this mode of attack are themselves the pastors of large churches that draw thousands of smaller church pastors into their influence by constantly attacking the megachurch. (I know this since I have been in these very same circles and preached this very type of message, to my shame and deep regret!) I ask you, very seriously: “What true good does this do for expanding the kingdom of Jesus?” (emphasis original)



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10 responses to “Are Mega-Churches Evil?

  1. I think that for the most part it’s not mega-churches that we speak against. Instead, it’s the behavior and (lack of) doctrine that often accompanies them. Like televangelists, the landscape of megachurches is wrought with moral and theological failures.

    Large numbers provide an excellent opportunity for “Christian” to join the church and yet remain relatively anonymous. The large numbers alone often can speak volumes about whether or not a church carries out biblical church discipline on a regular basis.

    Not to mention the seeker-sensitive approach that often accompanies these churches.

    The sad truth about the world we live in is that if the majority is in favor of it, it’s probably wrong. That’s why these numerically successful churches are often spiritual failures.

  2. It has been my experience that mega churches are just churches: ultimately no more and no less. They deal with all the same gaff as smaller churches, but because of their visibility they endure more hostility. Willow Creek is an example of a mega church that has a wonderful witness and huge impact. Is it doing its job perfectly? No. But then what church is? I can also look to our local mega church (doesn’t everyone have one): the pastor admited to plagerizing rick warren for two years and the only thing he got for it was a short vacation during which the church people decided his moral failure couldn’t outweigh how nice he was. So, good example and bad example of mega church behavior. As to the possibility of superficiality: as a pastor in a church of around 100, I can assure you that superficiality is not confined to mega churches. Churches are churches are churches: mega or otherwise: stuffed full of sinners, held together by grace, always on the verge of death and life. kudos to Armstrong for confronting the narrow jealosy of churchleaders who should care for their flock and not for the size of it.

  3. Anonymous

    2 Cor. 8:13-15

  4. I have concerns about community in megachurches. How does the pastor pastorthose he doesn’t know? Do I want to attend a church where I can’t occasionally have a private meeting or even go to lunch with my pastor? To me, that’s not community.

  5. I read or heard about how Bill Hybels started Willow Creek by having a firm produce statistics on what turns residents of the southern suburbs of Chicago from attending church. He modeled Willow Creek after what he learned. You could look at it as bringing the Gospel to people where they are. I’ve always found Southeast pretty boring, but Springdale and a lot of East End churches have similar worship styles. It all just seems so superficial to me. But regardless of my personal tastes, we should be grateful that Southeast is a witness in Louisville to the Gospel and in defending issues like marriage. I’ll also give props to the Easter Pageant 🙂 Perhaps if not for the mega-church movement, many of our neighbors wouldn’t be in church at all.

  6. That’s not at all how Willow Creek started. Willow essentially started from a Bible study held before a band practice that became so popular other people started coming to it. The the pastor of the church announced he didn’t want some of “those people” coming to his church, so the band, young Bill Hybels who was leading the Bible study and the attenders rented out a movie theater and began meeting there. Read the book, Rediscovering Church for more info.

    Willow has done similar studies though after they were established. As a former member of Springdale, I can tell you that we surveyed the neighborhoods around the church numerous times in the 11 years I was a member. A smart church stays in touch with its surrounding community AND keeps an ear close to what non-believers are saying.

  7. Well, maybe Willow Creek was one of the first churches to do such extensive research on their neighborhoods, creating a model that is followed by churches like Springdale. I think I heard about it from some business podcast. I imagine most mainline Protestant churches don’t need to conduct much research since they already have a liturgy for worship and are pretty well established in the community. Of course, they’ve also lost something like 30-40% of their members since the 70’s. I grew bored with Springdale after about a year and went to an Episcopal church for a while, so I can’t relate to what so many of my friends like about Southeast or similar churches. I think it’s something of an eBay effect: people sell on eBay because the buyers are there (and vice versa); likewise, people go to Southeast because their friends are going there.

  8. I would just like to ask anyone out there if they’ve ever gone to a mega-church.

    I am a member of Houston’s First Baptist Church and have gone there most of my life. Yes, I do have major qualms with the church, but I don’t think they are because it is a mega church. I have GREAT community, better community than I had when I went to smaller churches of 1000 or less.

    I do agree that it is harder to get to know the pastor and if that’s something you need, then I would say a mega-church isn’t for you.

    I would also say to look at churches such as John MacArthur’s and John Piper’s churches, they both have very large churches and they both preach a very strong gospel.

    I honestly think if my pastor spoke as strongly as Piper or MacArthur, then some people would be bothered, but for the most part, I think the people would grow. I honestly don’t think a TON of people would leave.

    Those are my preliminary thoughts.

  9. Anonymous

    I’m new to this site, but I wondered what you think about Pastors using (plagiarizing) the sermons from some of the more popular mega churches. Quite frankly, I’ve been searching for a new church in my area and I’ve encountered the same sermons in all of them. One pastor didn’t even give credit to Andy Stanley for the sermon series he was preaching and it was delivered verbatim! I listened to the sermon on the I-NET and it was shocking how this young pastor used even the identical little anecdote from his teen years that Andy S.had used in the original sermon. Yikes! I’m having a hard time finding a church where a pastor still studies scripture for himself. Thank God for J. Piper! I listen to him often. I would love for anyone to respond to the whole issue of using packaged sermons. Thanks -CATE

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