Megaproblems with Megachurches

Written by Drew on December 12th, 2005

Several weeks ago a Reuters article entitled, “Megachurches Draw Big Crowds” was brought to my attention. When I finally read it, I could not believe some of the statements made to those loyal to Rick Warren’s megachurch paradigm. Even though I am somewhat familiar with the agenda, the words still had the effect of swimming with electric eels.

Before commenting further, let me say that I am not opposed to large churches. I think that large, godly churches of the Lord are essential to the continuance of the faith. Sure, it may be easier for a smaller church to stay doctrinally pure, and such a church may have an easier time getting its members involved. However, large churches are better equipped to take on big projects that have an impact on a world-wide level. I am not one of these who believes a church should split upon reaching the 300 mark. I’m not sure that method works well in today’s society.

But when I talk about “large, godly churches,” I am not speaking of the large institutions known as “megachurches,” places like California’s Saddleback Church, Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois and Houston’s Lakewood Church. Each of these draws crowds of 20,000 or more on a weekend. They are perversions of New Testament Christianity, and it saddens me to read that they are setting the definition for evangelical Christianity in the 21st century. It saddens me even more to know that many of my brethren are caught up in the fanaticism surrounding this movement and are using its methods in their own congregations!

Briefly, let me highlight some of the astounding statements made concerning America’s megachurches in the article I mentioned earlier. I’ll comment on some of them, but, left alone, they show what’s wrong with this movement.

The authors of the article report on Willow Creek’s worship services saying, “Thousands of worshipers from the main floor to the balcony and mezzanine levels were on their feet rocking to a powerful sound system.”

Nancy Ammerman, professor of the sociolgoy of religion at the Boston University School of Theology says of megachurches, “They have the resources to produce a professional-quality production every weekend, with music (often specially composed for the occasion and backed by a professional ensemble) and video and lighting and computer graphics and a preacher who knows how to work a crowd.”

Of one attendant it is said, “After listening to dynamic lead pastor Gene Appel speak on family and passing the baton of faith from one generation to the next, she liked the message–and the entertainment.” The attendant is quoted as saying, “I think that is one of the ways of getting your numbers up…to get the message across but to keep it fun and upbeat. And more contemporary to get more young families involved.” “Fun and upbeat,” by the way, is described earlier in the article as “a Christian rock band joined by dancing children…their image ablaze on several gigantic screens.”

No doubt, Ezra the scribe would reverse the sermon he gave the Israelites were he able to attend such a gathering. For he told them “do not mourn nor weep” (Neh. 8:9). But this irreverence would bring tears to his eyes! (cf. Neh. 8:1-8).

What are the expressed goals of megachurches? Scott Thurma, a sociologist of religion at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, says, “They have opened worship to the seeker and the unsaved rather than reserving Sunday worship for the saved and sanctified.” Without even blinking, these churches seek to attract wordly sinners to their services instead of Christians who have been washed in the blood of Christ! Evidently they do not care for God’s declaration that worship is a privilege for the saved and a “vain” enterprise for the unsaved (Prov. 15:29; 1 Pet. 3:12; 1 Cor. 11:27-29; Mt. 15:8-9).

Rick Warren, founder of California’s Saddleback Church, says, “U.S. Protestants have returned to the 19th century roots of the evangelical movement, emphasizing social issues such as caring for the sick, the poor and the powerless, and not just concentrating on personal salvation.” Thankfully the Lord didn’t think of our greatest need as “just” personal salvation. He came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10).

Megachurches may succeed in numbers, but, spiritually speaking, they have missed the mark. While good deeds and mercy are legitimate examples of church work, the main focus ought to be salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul said, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Until a church makes Christ its emphasis, it will not be pleasing to God.


3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jason J. says:

    Good post! Recommended Reading – Showtime! by Dan Chambers, Maryville, TN Church of Christ. We used it in a Sunday morning class setting.

  2. Drew Kizer says:

    Adam Faughn just posted an article on his blog reporting that Willow Creek is canceling its worship services for Christmas Day this year…for what it’s worth.

  3. J- Train says:

    This kind of stuff will lead to the fall of our american civilization. One day something vital to life will be conveyed to the american public, but it won’t be dumbed down to a thirty second sound bite or have catchy theme music, and we’ll all die. People don’t want salvation, they want entertainment. Ohh well, broad is the gate that leads to destruction.

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