Sunday, October 16, 2011

Megachurches Are Churches, Too

A confession needs to be made. And it might not go over all too well, but it needs to be made nonetheless.  So, brace yourselves.

I've done a lot of research on non-denominational churches. Like, a lot. And not as in "I had this report to do for a class in school" research. As in, "I was looking into a serious life change involving a change of place of worship".

I hinted at this back in July. That was around the peak of my research efforts. And have I reached a verdict? Umm...not really. I will say that I have no immediate plans to change and am still praying and carefully considering what all such a change would entail. In fact, when I (hopefully) move back to St.Louis in January, I plan on initially attending the church my best friend's parents pastor, like I did when I was at Gateway and it is, in fact, a UPCI church. It's a small church, they need help, and as crazy as things can be there, I came to love it (usually) while I was there. From there, things will be played by ear or, to use a pulpit cliche, as the Spirit so moves me.

So, why am I confessing this now?

Well, first of all, confession is good for the soul and I have nothing to hide from both of you that read this, so there's that. And second...well...that requires some explanation of why I started looking into a change to begin with.

Today, someone on my Facebook newsfeed posted a picture, It featured a megachurch sanctuary with a tagline that read, "Megachurch: Because this is more important than feeding the starving."'s the picture:

My brain imploded.

When I was doing my research, a lot of the churches I came across could be considered to be megachurches. Such places of worship have become something of a phenomenon in the Christian movement and, within some smaller church sects, somewhat taboo. A lot of people have accused these churches of "selling" the Gospel and have said that some of their methods can be considered disrespectful. For example, in St.Louis, on Saturday evenings, some of my friends in the student body at Gateway would attend The Journey, one of the more notable of these churches. I never got a chance to attend myself, but from what I had heard, the church took a casual approach, focused on a more teaching-based method of delivery. One of my friends came back with a Message translation Bible (my personal favorite translation for daily reading) which had been provided at no cost and she said that there had been a coffee shop outside of the sanctuary and many people had taken their beverages in with them to the service. So, yeah. Pretty dang chill.

And I'm so totally okay with that. It actually entrances me a little bit. Which, granted, is not necessarily a good thing. But rest assured, I will not choose my future church based on the presence of coffee and casual dress code. The church is Trinitarian and I am still firmly based in my Oneness beliefs, so that would more than likely be a no-go for me.

But here's the thing that absolutely sells me on these big churches. (Disclaimer: This is my personal taste and should not be taken as a slam on smaller churches in any way, shape, or form.) These churches, because of their massive size, have the means to make a huge difference in their communities, as well as in the way of Global Missions. And not only do they have the means to do this, but they actually DO make a difference. Regardless of what catchy phrase people want to post on an internet picture to disparage these large churches, the simple fact is that a bigger facility does not necessarily mean that help isn't being given to those who need it. It's not that a big congregation or a big building is more important than helping the hungry. Actually, these big congregations and buildings facilitate a great deal of help for those who need it most. Many of these churches possess things like food banks, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens. Many of these megachurches identify themselves as "missional" meaning that they cut back on some expenses in order to provide opportunities not only for domestic help, but for help overseas as well, which, hippie humanitarian wannabe that I am, is a huge plus.

Here's the thing to keep in mind. Another congregation having a different viewpoint on how to spread the Gospel doesn't give us license to say that they don't care. If you haven't educated yourself on their efforts, don't perpetuate the myth. If they're preaching truth, caring about people, and enhancing their community, isn't that what matters?

Why nitpick the other things?
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MotherT said...

Since we have kinda discussed this already in person, I will just give you this piece of information: No matter the size of the church building, or the number of people that attend, there will still be the same 20% who do all of the work. The only difference is that there are more people in a mega-church that benefit from the work of the 20%.

Keep praying, keep checking things out, and keep listening to His Voice.

Sheila said...

Hi Rebecca, I stumbled across your blog while in search of a picture for my blog. I am apostolic to the core and was thrilled to find another blog by someone apostolic. Actually my faith blog has the same background as yours. Who would've thought? It's funny I also live in Missouri. My sister attended Gateway (years ago) so I am familiar with the St. Louis area.

About your blog post, I personally have never attended a mega church. I have always been in a smaller church, which suits me fine. I know Alexandria is a mega church and I have seen a few videos of their services. Seems to me there is a lot of flashiness but not a lot of personal interaction. I for one love to be taught the word of God on a more personal level rather than having a pastor and saints who are mere acquainances because there are just too many faces to get to know on a personal level. Although I know you weren't asking for a perfect strangers advice, my advice would be, as your friend has already said, make sure you listen to the voice of God before deciding on a church. If you are truly apostolic (filled with the Holy Ghost), and I believe you are, you will know the right church from the wrong one. However, don't kid yourself, flashiness, style, money among other things can sway your decision. Make sure your motives for changing are right and that they are not because of "appearance", social status or glamour or perhaps because there are more men to choose from. As I said I know you didn't ask for a perfect strangers opinion or advice, but as one apostolic woman to another, I would be inclined to tell you to stick with a church that has not reached "mega" status. I believe your soul will benefit more from teaching and preaching that is on a more personal one on one level.

Anonymous said...

A pastor in my city has built a church that is unnecessarily huge. He refuses to have a food bank or a clothing shop for the poor because he says it draws the wrong crowd. He says he wants 9's and 10's in his church, not 1's and 2's. That is making a mockery of all that Jesus stands for. I am appalled!