Friday, 9 October 2009

What light's your fire?

It is said of many American mega-churches that they are driven by the three 'b's' - buildings,bucks and butts.

God forbid that these drive UK churches.


Alexander Smith said...

Yes because obsession with (old) buildings, the wealth of a particular congregation and how many people come to a service are never characteristics of UK churches...

I think it would be very unfair to dismiss all American mega-churches as being this shallow. There are major differences between mega-churches depending on the denomination with which they are affiliated. A Southern Baptist one is likely to be Gospel-centred, whereas a Pentecostal/seeker-sensitive one isn't (oops, there I go with the sweeping generalisations. I have in mind Lakeland and Willow Creek).

If a Bible-believing church can gain a membership of 10,000, or even 4,000- especially in an area where there is church saturation- that is impressive, at least on some level. Is it desirable? I would say, having been to a mega-church, probably not (though it was certainly a church faithful to Christ and His Gospel). How church discipline and community is possible in such a large congregation is a serious question. One shouldn't, however, just write them off. They have supplied a need and have been very successful at getting non-church goers into church (as well as, of course, poaching people from other churches).

Let's not forget everyone's heroes Piper and that man in Seattle who people swoon over are also pastors of mega-churches.

At the end of the day I'd rather my church was obsessed with providing grade A facilities, raising money for mission work and evangelising than doggedly opposing the removal of the pipe organ, keeping all their wealth tied up in legacies which are too specific to be used for anything practical and not interested in people unless they know someone's parents.

Alexander Smith said...

Oops, my bad, you did say "MANY mega-churches". Apologies. I think my post still stands though:)

Donald Ferguson said...

The only experience I have had of a Church with a large congregation was some time in the past. A relative was on the staff at 10th Presbyterian in Philadelphia when J M Boyce was the minister. We attended the church when visiting and had the insight afforded by a close friend very familiar with its workings. If I remember correctly the congregation was over 2,000 and there were about 25 full time staff [does that qualify as a mega church?].

The church had a very bible based ministry and coped with the size of the congregation by repeating services on a Sunday and using the numerous full time staff to run a wide range of ministries that engaged many in the congregation.

However, this was America and not the UK. The breadth of ministry was only sustainable because of the number of full time staff and the heart of the church was the quality of expositional preaching under Boyce which attracted big numbers to a big building.

When the preaching of the word attracts large numbers [as it did at times in Acts] then the forming of a large church that can serve the community and the congregation with a wide range of ministries can only be good.

However, what matters is the foundation on which the church is built – not its size. If we are focused on Spirit enabled, Bible based preaching of the word then God will be at work – saving souls and growing saints. If He builds a congregation of 2,000 – praise the Lord. But a God centred congregation of 200 is a more effective witness to the power and grace of God than a mega-congregation built up by any other means.

Alexander Smith said...

I absolutely agree. I suppose I was responding more to a cynical British attitude towards American Christianity. British Christianity- evangelical and non- has a very strong elitist current towards America and I just like to stand up for the poor, downtrodden nation (;)) I certainly don't think we should aim to have mega-churches for the sake of having them, but I also feel there is a lot of good in the mega-church movement that we can learn from.

As to what counts as a mega-church, I believe 4,000 is the standard threshold. So 10th Presbyterian is a paltry congregation!lol