Mega Church

I’ve got a confession to make: I’m a Presbyterian pastor, and I attend a Mega Church.

Yes, I know you may be disappointed. I’m sure you have a few questions as to my motives. But first hear me out.

I’ve been attending a ‘young adult’ service off and on (when I am here and free) for a couple of months now. The main reason I go is not a good one: I just like to be around other young adults who I know are Christians. The worship is good, but to be completely honest, that’s not why I go…it’s sort of a side item.

Now, I’m not serving as a pastor at a mega church for a few different reasons. I actually like the church I serve. But I rather actually talk about what I’ve observed since my attending this church service.

I started attending these ‘young adult’ services while in college in Ohio. They’ve always been in addition to my regular involvement at my home congregation. It’s a nice change from the mainstream Protestant worship experience.

I see people who genuinely enjoy being there. Sure, a lot of young adults go as another social venue (much like I do…and much like many of our seniors at my church), but they enjoy what they’re there for.

I hear music that is contemporary, and professional sounding. Do you know how bad it is to hear bad music on Sundays? I’m not talking about style or genre, but just poorly performed, or sung by the whole congregation. Mega Churches do music very well (despite the lack of inclusive language, but that’s for another discussion).

I listen to preaching/teaching that is informative, entertaining, engaging, and relevant. Now, this is a sensitive issue, because I’m also a preacher, but I will give credit where it is do. Sure, I don’t share in many of their theological perspectives. Sure, I feel like the format that they use is often meandering and shallow. Sure, I approach the purpose of a sermon differently than they do. But in the end, what they do, which is a different goal than what I do, is GOOD.

I see this church growing, reaching out, and doing some great service to the community each day. Yes, many of the visitors there are ‘consuming’ the experience, rather than taking ownership and identity with the congregation, but again, it’s a different perspective on church. And the work that these programs can do in the secular world, with the resources they have, is amazing. I DREAM about having a mission budget like that…or the people who are interested in similar projects.

All in all, I’m consuming the mega church experience, much like many people who come in its doors any night of the week. But there are certainly parts of it that I would love to be part of as a pastor. And while the approach to church is different than what most mainline congregations deal with each day, the mega church does what they do very well. I give them credit for that.

I’m a Presbyterian pastor for a lot of reasons: tradition, worship, theology, culture to name a few. But it is good to see how God continues to move and ‘do a new thing’ in the midst of a constantly evolving world.

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2 comments

  1. Jeff,

    Loved hearing this! I kinda yearn for this form of experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Presbyterian tradition, worship, theology, history, etc. I find it very hard to connect with the senior members in a “regular” Presbyterian church. I’m at a very critical juncture in my life – church is not meeting my needs and I know I’m not feeling full like I used to.

    Like

  2. My criticism of both mainline protestantism and mega church is: how do we get from informative, engaging, and relevant Sunday and Wednesday hang out with great music (which is what mega-church does well and mainline tries to do but does poorly) to radical counter cultural vehicle of transformation (which neither seem to do well)? Is there a way to align a church’s priorities with something other than its budget? Is there a way for a church to welcome the sinner and not worry about chasing away the comfortably upper middle class? How are we enacting God’s justice and preference for the poor by building enormous buildings (or in the case of a local church, installing a new $750,000 organ)?

    One of my seminary professors (now the president of UPSCE) once said, “Satan loves nothing better than a great worship service” because it leads people to stay in the church and not outward to service or witness.

    Mainline churches have an inferiority complex living in the shadow of mega churches and our response is judge them or join them, but we’re all equally lost because we’re using the wrong metrics in the first place: Membership, attendance (which is actually somewhat tied to the viability of the church but not necessarily the spiritual vitality), budget, fame (one could use the word “celebrity”), building, power& influence…if we’re honest, these are the things that create the resentment between Mainline church and mega church.

    What are the right metrics? Some are easy to quantify – percentage of a church’s budget that’s given away with no expectation of return, adult baptisms (one could use the word “conversions”), average income of congregation members compared to the community, average giving of congregation members as a percentage of income (to the church and to community organizations), average participation (in programs and in spiritual disciplines like bible study and prayer) of congregation members, diversity of congregation…

    Some are not so easy to quantify – life change of members of the congregation, visitors finding freedom from abuse, addiction, shame, or depression, presence of the Holy Spirit in the work of the congregation outside the sanctuary…

    The dichotomy we’ve constructed (relevance vs. tradition, depth vs. width, consumerism vs. sentimentality) is false. The real challenge is to be in the world, but not of the world and we’re all failing.

    Like

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