My Sort-Of Retraction, Or A Seven Day A Week Church Explosion!

Alright, I’ve been a bit harsh. That’s not necessarily the feedback I received last week in my reader survey (many genuine thanks to everyone who participated!), though I do think at times I’ve been a little unfair around here.

I’m not a mega-church fan. That’s not headline news. I attended the largest in my hometown for a few years, and I’ve written about some of the serious dangers they create.

These suckers don't come free.

If you care here’s a sampling:

  • the service becomes entertainment because they’re trying to keep thousands of people interested and engaged
  • huge amounts of money and resources go simply into infrastructure
  • the service is centered around a sermon delivered by one person which doesn’t foster community
  • big emphasis on being hip [via atmospheric stages, sweet websites and cool videos]
  • focus on increasing numbers takes away from maturing disciples

I’m not retracting those critiques (and please stay tuned as the post is about something entirely different, though feel free to analyze my critiques), though I made the mistake of thinking those flaws condemn the whole system of mega-churches – as if no good could come from them. It doesn’t mean God is limited and cannot move or transform people in a mega-church.

So I apologize for such a sweeping condemnation.

One of the reasons I pick on mega-churches is because I think they take our emphasis on the Sunday morning church service to the natural extreme. I’ve said this before – if I’m going to go to a church service with singing and preaching I mightaswell go to the one with the best production (why go to the one with gut wrenching music and disjointed preaching?). Hopefully this goes without saying – but church is far more than a sermon and some worship tunes.

I don’t need to write a paragraph explaining how 2 or 3 gathered in Jesus’ name is church – I trust you get the idea.

To me the main problem with calling what we do Sunday mornings “church” is that we can easily not view other times as church – for instance the rest of the week. It seems like a silly point to make but we do it. Do I think of having my best friend over for dinner as church?  Almost never. But it is!

And here’s the even more stunning realization: we don’t have to be doing overt religious things for it to be “church.” Pastors get scared about the other six days a week so they load you up with religious activities like volunteering and bible studies and so on, but even if I just meet up with a friend for coffee God can move and encourage or convict.

My point is – Sunday mornings are fine, even mega-churches (though not ideal for me). But don’t miss all the ways God’s body on earth is moving and happening around you. You just may find you’re see God more and more in things you’ve overlooked before.

Sorry the post is ending with a rhyme in the previous line.

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21 Responses to My Sort-Of Retraction, Or A Seven Day A Week Church Explosion!

  1. Frankly Charlie, as a pastor I abhor the constant activity that so many think a church must have to be seen as vital and alive. I would rather see “church” lived out on a daily basis-as you have stated at a coffee shop or wherever-than to say, “We have this and that going on and ‘require your attendance’ in order to make it work.” I have no problem with your “retraction.” 🙂 I somehow think Jesus would prefer seeing us live our faith on a daily basis as well. Rhyme, I mean, post away!

    • I think some of the most important church that happens is outside of the parameters of the institution. don’t get me wrong – Bible studies & soup kitchens are great – but people simply loving one another and lifting each other up – that’s the ticket.

  2. David says:

    One fact that is often overlooked in the early church: 3,000 folks got saved the first day, that’s a mega church service. Sure, they were from many countries, but I bet there were more 3 or 4 folks from Peter’s city.

    The second fact is that they formed community. Just because they met in houses, doesn’t mean that they were small services. In fact, later on the met in synagogues. They were big enough for a crippled man to be lowered through the roof.

    My point is that there were some big churches! How big to you think Antioch was?

    I have never regularly attended a church that was more than 200, and most were about 100. I did home-church with around 10 folks and men’s groups with just 4 of us.

    In every case, community was difficult. There was the lack of commitment, and lot of immaturity. Size didn’t matter.

    Americans pick churches and religion they same way they choose what brand of underwear to buy at Walmart. You can draw you own conclusions from the analogy. Let’s just say, whatever they choose, it’s rarely seen outside the store.

    All that matters is this: “Am I in the church that God called me to?” Everything else is the very same pile of selfish, hyped, intellectual trash that we see every day – it’s not really God.

    Oh my, did I create an acronym?

    BTW – I have been rereading Like a Mighty Wind, wow, now that’s church!

    • haha I caught that acronym- risque David! And great analogy about how Americans choose churches. Also great points about large early churches – though they were far less formal and regularly scheduled then today’s mega church productions. Still a decent point to consider none the less. that’s why I say they aren’t for me.

  3. Jeff says:

    I agree with you on the mega church shortcomings. And I have been following this debate since the building of the Crystal Cathedral. But I have also sensed (from the smaller players) a bit of envy and covetnous as they try to talk it down. Most small bricks and mortar churches are doing the same things only on a much smaller budget. They have (try to have) the same country club approach with much less polished music, programs, buildings, web sites, etc. But they are still trying to sell the same “come and be with us on Sunday B.S.” that the mega churches are selling. And then comes Monday.

    • it is still definitely competition for members to the club. I know the church I used to attend was trying to pull out all the stops and though they love the “we’re a non traditional church we meet in a school” it sometimes look like they long to be a mega player. Though that is speculation and some judgment on my part.

  4. Charlie,

    I so appreciated this post. This topic is a topic which I am quite passionate about. I have the honor to work for BC Teen Challenge which is a one year discipleship program for men between the ages of 19 & 45 who come and live with us for an entire year at our Centre in Yarrow, BC, Canada. These men come to us because of life controlling addiction issues. I also co-pastor a church in Abbotsford, BC. Since last year, I have been speaking to our students and the people who come to church on Sunday that being a Christian is more than just going to church on Sunday. One of the sayings we use on a regular basis is, “you are not called to go to church you are called to be the church.” Last month I spoke on “There is more to life than just Sunday,” encouraging our members to make the most of there lives (especially a part from Sunday) as there is a broken world out there just waiting for us to leave the comfort of our four walls. I could go on and on and on and on and on (you get the point) about this topic, but I won’t. Thanks again for sharing your heart! Much appreciated.

    • Sean, glad to hear you resonated with this post. And not only is it an honor to work for such a program, but you get to do it in beautiful British Columbia! I want to go mountain biking up there sometime, the videos I’ve seen are amazing!

      Anyway it’s good to hear you are teaching people this simple truth. I think lots of Christian would say “yeah yeah church isn’t just for Sundays,” yet they still miss how church happens all the time in ways they aren’t seeing it. I hope this isn’t offensive to you as a pastor, but I think one of the ways we can change this view is by de-emphasizing Sunday mornings. I think if we strip them down a little more people will see how there isn’t a difference between Sunday morning gatherings and just hanging out with your spiritual brothers and sisters.

  5. Larry Hughes says:

    I have some reservations on mega churches but I do enjoy most of the productions in them. I personally prefer smaller churches in order to get close to the pastor on a personal basis.

    I don’t attend a church building regularly any more on Sundays for reaons I will not discuss here but I have not abandoned my faith. Quite the contrary. People have been coming to me asking about my faith and seeking salvation on a regular basis in my two communities I run. Many do not even attend a church or feel they are not worthy to experience God’s grace and love. Aren’t these the people that God wants us to reach out to?

    I guess you can say I am available 24/7 for their needs ( spiritual and other). I don’t go looking for these people. They come to me through word of mouth or say they were led to talk to me.

    Some times it is over whelming but I felt led to speak with them when they ask. A few have been asking that I set up a group meeting on a regular basis to lean more about God.
    However, I think they need a pastor to communicate with and I try to refer them to a nearby church.

    In reality I feel that the church can be any where one or more meet to worship God. And yes, if one bears witness of their salvation at the coffe shop one can be considered in a church.

    Then the question arises, why are these people seeking God out side of the church? Is it fear of rejection, bad experiences with churches, or don’t feel worthy?

    Sory for the rant. Yes, I don’t feel comfortable in mega churches.

    • it doesn’t sound like you feel comfortable in regular churches too. I think a lot of people share that discomfort – and of course that doesn’t make churches bad – it just means a lot of really hurtful things have occurred. I enjoy hearing your stories of how un-churched people seek you out (and not the other way around) – it shows that maybe we shouldn’t just be trying to draw people into our church buildings but simply being with people who don’t want to go in (and not try to force them inside of one). It is just like our God to be moving strongly outside the doors of religious buildings.

      • Larry hughes says:

        Charlie:

        Exactly my sentiments.
        The people that need to hear God’s words are all out side the churches. If they ask for it , I will share. The best witnessing and example is to love others and walk the walk. Talk is cheap, but setting the example is priceless.

        I have always heard the expresion ” bringing people to church to worship God” but I felt a calling to bring the church to the people to worship God that never go for one reason or another.

      • it’s almost as though we isolate in the buildings and forgot there is a huge world out there.

  6. Su says:

    It’s amazing the places that I’m finding God these days. Which sounds kind of trite, but it’s true; being as I carry him with me, plus he’s already everywhere anyway, all I really need do is open my eyes. And there he is.

  7. theoldadam says:

    I have the Mega churches not to be counter-cultural. Something I think churches should be.

    Personally, I know that when I walk into a church building, the last thing I need to have happen is to have myself handed back to me.

    Usually, what I want, is the problem.

    Thanks!

  8. theoldadam says:

    Should have read, “I have found…”

  9. theoldadam says:

    Charlie,

    You are very wise young man to make such an astute observation.

  10. theoldadam says:

    Maybe it was a good thing.

    Now you are over it.

  11. Pingback: Using The Tools In The Shed (Even If They’re From The Dollar Store), Or The Master Denomination | Charlie's Church of Christ

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