Are Megachurches Healthier?

Are megachurches healthier than smaller churches?  According to the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University as reported by the Washington Post 1 the answer seems to be yes.  According to the article megachurch congregations tithe more, are committed to attendance and build better relationships.  This seems to be contrary to how many people envision life in a megachurch.

Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find the actual study so all there is to go on is highlights from the study as told in the article.  I attended North Point Community Church with Pastor Andy Stanley for a while and found it very difficult to get plugged in.  I’m sure I could have taken more effort, but then I would have felt like I was prying my way into something that I wasn’t sure I was invited to.

We are told in this study that megachurch goers are also more evangelistic than those of smaller churches.  On one hand I also get the impression that this evangelism takes place in the form of just inviting someone to church rather than sharing the Gospel.  That seems to be the form that evangelism took during the seeker-centered movement.  My experience has been that people invite the unbeliever to the church “experience” rather than to Christ.  I’ve witnessed this so I’m not making it up.  It’s easier to invite someone to a community to experience it than to share the Gospel.  This is not to say that God won’t work this way to save people.  It’s just not exactly the same as sharing your faith biblically.  To be fair, the article states the megachurch folks “shared their faith.”  Again, I’d like to read the study.  This is actually very encouraging to learn they shared their faith often though.

How about church membership?  The article doesn’t allude to actual membership in megachurches, rather it says “congregants” and “attendance.”  This doesn’t mean that megachurches don’t stress membership, but if they don’t it would be tough to know who really is coming and going.  Mark Dever 2 made a great post a couple years ago concerning pastoral accountability of the people they shepherd.

Meanwhile, mortality continues on, and pastors have certainly died since the convention, and will continue to, as we are all eventually called home. And when we do, according to Hebrews 13, we pastors will give an account to God for the souls in our care. Who are they? They are the members of our churches.

We’re back to not really knowing how the megachurches in question operate.  You can even read some of the past studies Ed Stetzer was involved in with megachurches.  Despite the issues megachurches may have and my discomfort level with them there are pastors who lead megachurches whom I really respect.  Pastors like John Piper, John MacArthur and even Mark Driscoll (Fire away), but a common theology may have more to do with my appreciation of them than the size of their churches.  This is a short list and I know there are others out there.

The megachurch is not the norm.  Most churches don’t have 1,000+ members.  What smaller churches may take from this study, once we get to see the whole thing, is how and why their congregants are sharing the Gospel more often.  Why they are more faithful attendees and tithers.  These are certainly things in which we can all serve the Lord better regardless of congregation size.  Different challenges are amplified in different church settings whether large or small, for we are sinners all.

If you’re really interested in reading about megachurches check out Changes in American Megachurches3

What do you say?  Any megachurch or former megachurch folks out there have any thoughts to share?

For what it’s worth…

Mark

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tagged as , , , in Church Issues,Culture,theology

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Rhology September 23, 2008 at 2:53 pm

As a younger believer, I was attracted to megachs in the Tulsa area b/c they offered livelier music and better tunes. There was generally a connection, in my mind, between that and deep worship (and I still kind of harbor similar suspicions, to be honest), at least for me.

As a bonus, alot of the time it included a decent preacher, as opposed to the one at the church where I was going b/c I was still in HS and going to my parents’ church and its youth grp. So I did me some church-hopping, and I actually don’t regret it for back then. Helped me understand good and bad things about where I came from and where I thought I was headed.
But it’s surely harder to connect. Other things can influence that too – I never really connected with the charismatic, non-denom, almost-mega church I attended for 2 yrs b/c I lived a >30 minute drive away and was involved in college campus ministries for my connections with fellow believers.

That said, I don’t know if I could stomach being a long-term member of a megachurch, UNLESS I could be involved with a small group.
(The obvious caveats of the theology better be good and the preacher better not just be a flashy charlatan like Osteen apply.)

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