There has been a megachurch phenomenon in the world for the last several decades. By "megachurch," I am referring to a church that has an average attendance of 2,000-3,000 attendees on a Sunday. I have many friends in New York City, around the U.S. and in numerous nations on various continents who have powerful megachurches with great influence that do not fit the points in this article; however, I have also known of many churches that model many or some of these points. The megachurch trend has increased dramatically.
In the 1980s, only a few churches in the U.S had more than a thousand attendees; now, there are so many it is hard to track. For example, I was told recently by a megachurch pastor friend that in the city of Atlanta alone, there are 40 churches with more than 10,000 in attendance. In developing nations, churches of 30 thousand or more began emerging several decades ago. Currently, there are numerous churches with over 50,000 to 100,000 members in Latin America, Asia and Africa. That being said, in all my travels, I have observed that megachurches do not always have mega influence.
I write this article because many people falsely assume that just because a church has several thousand members, it has a great impact. Due to several factors, this is not always true.
The following are eight signs a megachurch has minor influence:
1. The surrounding community is not transformed.
I have observed some at-risk communities in the world that have not experienced a quality-of-life change in spite of a megachurch being in its proximity. I have even known of megachurches claiming they are in revival that have not even reached their surrounding community; they had more of a tourist revival. This flies in the face of the impact the gospel is supposed to have in lifting cities (read Is. 61:1-4; Acts 17:6, 19:17-20). Truly, the gospel is supposed to lift whole communities, not just bless the church subculture. A megachurch that does not positively affect its community has minor influence.
2. Leaders are not developed from within.
I have observed how many megachurches have to import their pastoral and worship team leadership from outside their local church. This is obviously because they are not nurturing leaders within their own congregation. Consequently, the continual importing of key leaders from outside usually results in much leadership turnover. This is due to outsiders usually not understanding the culture of their new city nor having the DNA of the church. Many merely view working at a megachurch as a job opportunity more than a calling from God. A megachurch that depends primarily upon outside entities to supply its leadership has minor influence.
3. The focus is on gathering crowds, not making disciples.
There are numerous megachurches that have not produced any notable disciples. There is no discipleship focus or process in the church, since it is mainly focused on gathering crowds. Megachurches that do not produce disciples have minor influence.
4. There is no outlet for spiritual gifts to develop.
Scripture encourages believers to develop in spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 include both the manifestations of the Spirit and the motivational gifts. While it is difficult for large churches to allow these gifts to flourish in the context of a large Sunday service, there are many other outlets to empower people. Church-led small groups are one vehicle that can provide the environment for people to mature and discover their divine purpose. Megachurches that have no outlet for spiritual gifts to flourish among their people have minor influence.
5. There is little infrastructure.
There are some megachurches with huge crowds that do not have a viable skeletal frame with layers of leadership, shepherding, accountability and church government. Some are even run like a mom and pop shop!
Everything is built upon the Sunday experience that is supported by a sometimes-burned-out professional administrative staff. Consequently, when someone needs shepherding, counseling, mentoring or even a hospital visit, there are no systems or teams in place to provide this necessity. Megachurches with a small infrastructure often have minor influence.
6. The preaching is not focused on Scripture.
Unfortunately, many megachurches specialize in preaching self-help motivational messages that do not mature believers in the Word. God's people are destroyed because of a lack of biblical knowledge (Hos. 4:6). Megachurches without a system of serious ordered learning of the Bible have minor influence.
7. Most of the activity is centralized in a building.
Many megachurches focus all the equipping of their congregation for Sunday ministry.
Their concentration is focused on what happens inside the four walls of their building rather than training believers to make a difference in the marketplace from Monday to Saturday. Hence, in spite of the plethora of church programs, the church is merely perpetuating a subculture of dependence upon a building for ministry, rather than breaking out and influencing the public square. Megachurches that perpetuate church programs to the exclusion of the public arena have minor influence.
8. They do not serve the community.
There are many megachurches that merely provide good preaching and good worship on Sunday but do nothing practical to serve the felt needs of their community. Jesus not only preached the Word, but He also fed the multitudes and healed the sick. Therefore, Jesus met people's practical and material needs, not just their spiritual needs. Megachurches that do nothing to serve their community have minor influence.
Finally, I am not one who is against megachurches. All the points above are also an issue with most small to mid-sized churches. Also, God requires growth and multiplication with everything He does. This does not always have to come in the form of a megachurch but can take place when a smaller church sends out many leaders and or plants other churches. May all churches, no matter what their size, mature and equip the saints for the work of the ministry so Christ can fill all things (Eph. 4:10-12).
Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (uscal.us). He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to josephmattera.org.
This article originally appeared at josephmattera.org.
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