Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Hartford Seminary just released a wide-ranging survey includes data on the many attributes that together define the nature and impact of megachurches in our society. Collectively, the results debunk 11 of the most common beliefs about megachurches, namely:

MYTH #1: All megachurches are alike. REALITY: They differ in growth rates, size and emphasis.

MYTH #2: All megachurches are equally good at being big. REALITY: Some clearly understand how to function as a large institution, but others flounder.

MYTH #3: There is an over-emphasis on money in the megachurches. REALITY: The data disputes this.

MYTH #4: Megachurches exist for spectator worship and are not serious about Christianity. REALITY: Megachurches generally have high spiritual expectations and serious orthodox beliefs.

MYTH #5: Megachurches are not deeply involved in social ministry. REALITY: Considerable ministry is taking place at and through these churches.

MYTH #6: All megachurches are pawns of or powerbrokers to George Bush and the Republican Party. REALITY: The vast majority of megachurches are not politically active.

MYTH #7: All megachurches have huge sanctuaries and enormous campuses. REALITY: Megachurches make widespread use of multiple worship services over several days, multiple venues and even multiple campuses.

MYTH #8: All megachurches are nondenominational. REALITY: The vast majority belong to some denomination.

MYTH #9: All megachurches are homogeneous congregations with little diversity. REALITY: A large and growing number are multi-ethnic and intentionally so.

MYTH #10: Megachurches grow primarily because of great programming. REALITY: Megachurches grow because excited attendees tell their friends.

MYTH #11: The megachurch phenomenon is on the decline. REALITY: The data suggests that many more megachurches are on the way.

Many people, however, hold to a belief that size does matter, inferring that something must be wrong if a church is growing. Case in point is a recent post on 'Slice of Laodicea'. Click here to read post. I want to know from your experience: do people look more or less favorably on a large church, and why is there animosity towards big churches?


Mr. Ed said...

As one who grew up in a small church as a child, moved to a large and growing church as a young adult, and then matured as a young man in a new church birthed a few years ago, I think I have some perspective on the pro and con of all church sizes. I have attended churches for extended periods ranging from 15 to 150, 250, 1500 and 4,000. They all have their legitimate ministries, and they all bear their burdens.

Because of my love for music ministry I have a particularly biased focus on production, which would lean toward larger churches; I also enjoy intimacy and dynamic relationships which causes me to lean smaller.

I am writing a piece on this on my STEMGroup.blogspot.com site so I can go into more detail than here. But I will share a few insights I find on this thread.

No megachurches are alike, but they all face a similar dilemma: people fall through the cracks much easier - both believers and non-believers alike. A struggling brother may go more unnoticed, and an unbeliever may go unnoticed altogether.

Small churches are extremely different, and they are small for all sorts of reasons. If a church is in a town of 2,000 people, don't expect it to be larger than 150. If it is a small church in a big town, it could be that their ministry is more outward oriented and they have no plans for inward growth, but exponential outward focus.

Nonetheless, churches of varying sizes serve varying needs that are sometimes as numerous and unique as the number of churches in a community. One claim I think is fundamental and true: If your outreach and influence in the community is not growing, you are not fulfilling the great commission. Laodicea nobs would have a problem with that statement, but it is ideally the truth. No change equals no growth; I do not believe however, that inward growth is the only form of "growth" that a church body can exhibit.

Therefore, I'm not trying to straddle the fence here. I am just trying to knock the wind out of the Laodicea militia.

There could be another reason the church as a whole stays small: there are throngs of individuals that literally border on hatred for others in the church body. It is obvious that Christ's prerequisite for salvation "No one comes... but by me" doesn't matter to those who would like to criticize and demean other leaders and their faith, whether you agree with them or not.

I wrote this on the Laodicea blog:
"Quite frankly, for all of you that piously quote scripture against your brothers in the Lord, remember 'by this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one ANOTHER.' (Jn. 13:35)

Y'all aren't even close."

Anonymous said...

a little over a year ago, i left ocag to become part of a church plant on the east side of milwaukee. the vision and goal of this church is so near and dear to my heart. our goal is to be a transformational, relational community of believers. not a megachurch. ever. the desire and goal of my pastor, is that once our community reaches 150-200, we start another community elsewhere. (similar to the early church of acts). we are getting closer to that goal every week.

i am not against megachurches. i think that they do have a place. however, for myself, a smaller community has proven to be more beneficial. very rarely does someone slip through the cracks, very rarely does a struggling sibling go unnoticed. like any church we have our problems, but our focus is on loving one another, seeing people live and walk victoriously, being a community, a family, supporting one another, praying for and with one another, and above all, glorifying our lord and savior.

i don't think that its fair to say that just because a church is small, it doesn't mean that its not successful. at the same time, just because a church is ginormous doesn't mean that peoples needs aren't being met. i think that we, as members of the body, need to be selfless and be looking for the new faces or a sibling that suffers... instead of staying in our comfortable little cliques. i think that is part of what makes both megachurches and small churches alike fail.

ultimately, if jesus is glorified (which the fulfillment of the commission is part of that), than the body has fulfilled its purpose.


HazMatt said...

"our focus is on loving one another, seeing people live and walk victoriously, being a community, a family, supporting one another, praying for and with one another, and above all, glorifying our lord and savior"

Are you suggesting that a "megachurch" cannot have the same goals or cannot satisfy these goals? Concurrently, are you suggesting that smaller churches do a better job at satisfying the aforementioned goals?

I have experiences in both small and large churches. It's not if large/small churches are equiped to meet these goals, it is how large/small churches meet these goals. Both of these previous posts stereotype (somewhat legitimately), large and small churches. The stereotype that large churches allow parishoners to fall through the cracks can apply to small churches and the stereotype that small churches do not have the means or resources to meet a complex set of needs can apply equally to large churches.


Anonymous said...

no, matt, i'm not suggesting that at all. jon asked what our experiences were, and so far that has been my experience. i've been in different types of churches, and at different phases of my personal walk i've been fed greatly at both types. i think the experience of a church can be affected by what you (not you specificly, but each of us as individuals) are willing to put into it. i've slipped through the cracks, because i've chosen to. which honestly may be a large part of why i was ready to leave ocag. i've slipped through at small churches as well (the church i became a believer at was about 300).

i guess it comes down to the fact that we need to evaluate what our role as a church member and a child of god is. if each of us are fulfilling the calling placed on our lives, then a church, large or small, will be successful.


ryebread said...

I grew up in a small church, but I have to say that I like the bigger church better. You have more oppurtunity to get envolved in more ministries. Also having a big body of believers there is less pull by certain people of families in the church. For instance, at my old church of 250 there were three families that would use their whieght to influence others or the deacons to keep things the way they wanted. So then we had people basing their faith off the faith of these families and didn't know it. It was sad to watch the church sway with these families and if you didn't the would get the cold shoulder in church. Really bad experience. Those are my two cents. peace Xroads

Jeremy Ratliff said...

Wherever God leads you and wherever God uses you is where you should be. Some people like small churches where everybody knows your name and everybody is glad you came (like the Cheers theme, come to think about it....), and some people prefer a larger church where they can meet more people and worship in a much larger setting. At a small church, more roles are offered and it's easier to take charge and lead for yourself. In a big church, this may not be exactly the case, as the church is already established in it's leadership. In either setting, you can be used based on what you have to offer. There is nothing wrong with either. There is no exact science that only one church follows. Each type of church has a lot to offer, and each should be working together for the greater cause. Smaller churches can offer a setting for some people that they need when considering whether or not to start attending church...or if they are moving to the city from a small town they may prefer that "small church feel." Small churches (obviously there are some negatives at some churches) usually have a hands on, personal approach to offer. However, there are things that some small churches can't do, like support missionaries and dig into the media outlets of the world. This is not a negative thing about either, it just shows that both types of churches have their specific niches. After all of this, one must keep in mind that there are always going to be acceptions to the rule on both sides. When I attended "CIA" in Minneapolis, I experiance a small church that I loved. I loved the experiance, I loved the fact that they were always working on exciting projects together, I loved the worship that was basically whoever wanted to get up there...and at the same time I loved my home church in Oak Creek, that is on TV, stages huge community outreaches and has a massive sanctuary. I love both. Thats my two cents.

Jon A Brooks said...

Big churches are the bomb everyone! because people like me can antagonize while maintaining my stealthy undercover-ness!

Bwa... hahahahahaha!

Signing out,
The "I"