Mega-Churches: Good and Bad?

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Mega-Churches: Good and Bad?

Postby scrivener » Mon Sep 26, 2005 12:03 pm

In another thread, Foxen wrote,
I'm not particularly a big fan of mega-churches...

I, too, am no fan of the megachurch. I'll tread carefully here, since I know Donna goes to a satellite of Hawaii's only megachurch, but I have a problem with churches of this size.

First, doesn't it seem to you that these churches skew unnaturally toward young, educated, middle-to-upper-class demographics? I'm suspicious of any church that has an unnatural skew of this sort.

Second, and here's where my Southern Baptist biases come in, I wonder about church administration. Who are the pastors accountable to? In more traditional churches, pastors are put in place by the denominational body (as in Methodist and Episcopalian churches) or selected by the members of the church (as in Southern Baptist churches). If a growing number of people have a problem with pastors Wayne Cordeiro at New Hope or with Rick Warren at Saddleback, is the congregants' only option just to leave the fellowship and find another, or is there some way to have these leaders replaced?

Finally, I think a lot of changes in modern comtemporary worship are for the worse, and they are largely due to people having a hard time connecting with their congregations; thus, the need for cell-groups and interest-specific "ministries." Now, cell-groups and golfing ministries are fine with me, but are they a symptom that people aren't connecting well enough with their fellow members of the body?

I'm open to your changing my mind! What do you think?



ps: I have another problem with megachurches, and it's one of my biggest reservations, but I'm saving that for when I've had more time to formulate effective words for it! Don't want to offend anyone unnecessarily![/quote]
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Postby Foxen » Mon Sep 26, 2005 3:00 pm

Err, I'll keep my mouth shut for a while and let this stew for a bit...

But, that being said, our local mega-church does a lot of good in the community. One aspect that I really enjoyed was how much New Hype invested in Farrington High School. The school has undergone wonderful and beautiful upgrades...like the fencing, the stage, the sound equipment, the airconditioning, and more recently, the active program the church has with the work program with the high schoolers there. The church also does reach out to the prisons and the poor.

That said, I bite my tongue and I'll wait for a bit more responses and tread lightly in my replies...hehe.

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Postby scrivener » Mon Sep 26, 2005 11:15 pm

Heck. I should read carefully before I post. I thought Donna goes to New Hope Mililani, but that's completely wrong. Sorry.
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Mega-Churches: Good and Bad?

Postby Champuru » Mon Sep 26, 2005 11:19 pm

Wow, this is a good topic!

However, it's past my bedtime, so I'll have to reserve my comments until tomorrow.

Just to set the record straight, though; I no longer attend the mega-church satellite -- although my parents do. I am back at my hometown church (Hope Central) which meets in a school cafeteria and serves a congregation of a few hundred (not thousands). It's the church where I met my husband, was employed as a member of the staff for two separate seasons of my life, served as the Jr. High Ministry Director, Sunday School teacher, worship team drummer, and subsequently suffered a major burn-out which caused a period of falling away for a few years. (Oh, so many stories to tell!)

At any rate, no matter what happened there, good or bad, it will always be home.

So, more on mega-churches tomorrow when I have some time to jot down my thoughts. Right now, sleep awaits! :)
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Postby Champuru » Mon Sep 26, 2005 11:20 pm

scrivener wrote:Heck. I should read carefully before I post. I thought Donna goes to New Hope Mililani, but that's completely wrong. Sorry.


No problem! I used to go to New Hope Leeward (meets at their Ministry Center in Waipahu), but now I'm back at Hope Central. (Formerly known as Hope Chapel Mililani.)
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Postby scrivener » Mon Sep 26, 2005 11:24 pm

There's just too much Hope on this island!
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I'm not a big fan on Mega Churches too!

Postby 1stwahine » Tue Sep 27, 2005 7:55 pm

Isn't HOPE better than not having HOPE at all? :D

I also do not like Big Churches. I get confused very easily. My mind wonders...and can't wait to leave. I get BORED. At Anuenue, it's a small and growing church. More one on one like a family atmosphere. Bible Study is held at Pastor's home on Wednesday nights. I still have to make arrangemts to go. I'll pray on that too.

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Re: Mega-Churches: Good and Bad?

Postby lovetosing » Wed Sep 28, 2005 12:27 pm

Let me preface my post by saying that I recently (within the last four months) left a megachurch after 10+ years.

scrivener wrote:First, doesn't it seem to you that these churches skew unnaturally toward young, educated, middle-to-upper-class demographics?

Y'know, I didn't really notice that at my former church. I always had the feeling that the mega churches attracted the "sick," the people who are hurting, recovering, or overwhelmed by life as well as the larger community. I did notice a wide range of economic and educational levels. This may just be particular to the people I know and not representative of the church, but I would say that a good portion of the people I knew had a high school diploma. Some had college, very few higher degrees. As for occupations, I saw wide varieties, and perhaps a lack of what would be considered professional occupations.

Who are the pastors accountable to? If a growing number of people have a problem with pastors Wayne Cordeiro at New Hope or with Rick Warren at Saddleback, is the congregants' only option just to leave the fellowship and find another, or is there some way to have these leaders replaced?

I really admire pastors who are open to their congregation approaching them with questions about what they hear from the pulpit or concerns in the church. IMHO, I've heard a lot of emphasis on "exact obedience" to authority. No questioning. No hesistation. And while I'm not advocating challenging authority on a whim, there must be room for openess and correction within the church family, even with the leadership. Scrivener, I don't think this was exactly what you were asking...sorry. IMHO, the leaders will not be replaced, it's "their" church (I know it's ultimately God's church) so the only option is to leave after exhausting options to make it right.

Now, cell-groups and golfing ministries are fine with me, but are they a symptom that people aren't connecting well enough with their fellow members of the body?

I really love my cell group & see its benefit even if we're connecting splendly through services. It's another opportunity for fellowship. It also allows us to deepen our relationship within the larger church family. For me, it's a matter of making time to get together. I may not take time for myself otherwise, but if it's a structured time (ie for cell group) I block it off and I'm there!
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Postby GypsyLika » Thu Sep 29, 2005 10:20 am

Mega-churches bother me because I become distracted and hear the "oh, look at what he/she is wearing" and other frivilous tidbits. I get sucked into "looking at what he/she is wearing" trivial stuff. Then there's sort of a 'pecking order' and he's that or she's this. Too many distractions.

A small simple hometown kind of church is good. Although small town has its pecking order too, its on a smaller scale. :lol:

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Postby kaholo4Him » Sun Oct 02, 2005 8:08 pm

i had several discussions about mega-churches with my mom. at one point in time, she had wanted to leave her small congregation and go to n.h. - because it is so big, you can be rather anonymous (which can be a good thing if that's what you want - something a number of burnt out ministry leaders have gone there for... lie low for a while & not have to get involved in ministry if you didn't want to...). she liked the slick production, the carnival atmosphere, and "easy to understand, entertaining & life-applicable sermons." the convenience factor was pretty big too. large congregations have multiple locations and service times. if she had an event sunday morning, she could go to a saturday service, for example... it's also a place you could bring non-christian friends and they wouldn't feel too threatened or weirded out. and hey, they've got amazing programs & resources.
on the other hand, i've never felt drawn to be a part of that church. i've attended several services (usually when i couldn't attend my own church due to an event & i went to one of the alternate service times, which my home church didn't offer...) and was actually part of their dance ministry for several years. impressive, yes, but not my thing (personal taste, God's calling, whatever). i am talking as one who was only superficially involved with the organization. i've seen glimpses of it (in the dance ministry) and heard about the parts a lot of people don't see, but are apparent when you're really involved with the church... the unpretty stuff... but i don't really want to go there...
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Postby scrivener » Wed Oct 05, 2005 8:35 am

kaholo4Him wrote:because it is so big, you can be rather anonymous (which can be a good thing if that's what you want - something a number of burnt out ministry leaders have gone there for... lie low for a while & not have to get involved in ministry if you didn't want to...).

I hear that. I've often hidden myself in big, anonymous churches where nobody asks me who I am or what I do. This is one reason I've enjoyed the occasional Catholic mass on occassion -- I like the ritual aspect, and the fact that nobody feels the need to get to know me.

she liked the slick production, the carnival atmosphere, and "easy to understand, entertaining & life-applicable sermons."

Yeah. This is definitely one of the things I don't like about that church, but I understand that some people like that and I don't have a problem with it. At one of the Honolulu conferences a few years ago, Wayne Cordeiro led a break-out on worship, New-Hope-style, and he took a minute or two to tell everyone there, "Hey, I don't honestly know if what we're doing is right. All I know is that it gets people into church who might not otherwise attend." I admired that statement, and I guess I have to agree with it. I know a lot of people who found themselves in church at places like New Hope -- people who never found anything appealing about church, ever before. That's a tough thing to argue against.

i've seen glimpses of it (in the dance ministry) and heard about the parts a lot of people don't see, but are apparent when you're really involved with the church... the unpretty stuff... but i don't really want to go there...

The unpretty stuff is a fact of our lives on this planet; something we will probably never be free from while we still exist here. And thank you for not being specific: I agree that we don't need to use this forum as a place for that kind of thing. Still, if I got involved myself, would you consider it important enough to tell me, or would you think I should find that stuff out for myself? That's a tough call sometimes, yeah?
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Postby kaholo4Him » Sun Oct 16, 2005 12:25 am

surfed across this @ msn.com --- got some pretty interesting discussion going on over there... thought it might be a good read for y'all (& maybe you can join in on the fray too) =P

http://fray.slate.msn.com/id/2127615/?nav=fo
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Postby Foxen » Sun Oct 16, 2005 3:57 am

/crack knuckles

Okay, time to lightly unload...and I'll be sure to leave out much of the specific nasty dirt, as much as whatever self-control God put into me to contain.

My Internal Conflict and Contradiction...


When I first joined the particular mega-church that I poured my heart, soul, mind, and life into for seven years, I was at UH absorbing a modest education in management and marketing. Being at church was exciting, BECAUSE I got to see my marketing textbooks come to life. The church wasn't that bad in what they did....digging deep into the primary demographic group they were trying to reach (yuppies), and tailoring the Sunday service, the message, the programs, etc. all nicely masterfully persuasively packaged, priced, and delivered...I was deeply impressed and I watched and learned. It worked, and it continued to work well.

However, deep inside I was conflicted...on two parts. One, the stuff in my management textbook was being practiced at this church...err, well, the historical 1940s and 1950s outdated management models were being practiced...nothing new, nothing good, and I was sad. Worst so though, was the confusing intersection of "business" and "the pursuit of Christ"...or what I distinguish "mega-church" from "big church". Mega-church, to me, is where the business sharks step through the church doors, sit on the board, and mold and shape the church using state-of-the-art cutting edge business principals and practices in running church.

Part of me had rejected a lot of what I learned in marketing and the persuassion courses that I took...in some ways, the underhandedness in those that control the consumers was very....underhanded? Did you know that consumerism is controlled by the mass marketing geniuses in the modern western world? The marketers, the product makers, the spin-doctors pretty much control our culture and dictate to us what we eat, what we wear, what we drive, where we live, etc. It's sad, it's true, and I chose to fight against it rather than to work for the powers that be to control the masses.

Mega-Church Based on Mega-Marketing
(if so many people are into it, how can it be bad?)

Marketing works around the five Ps...product, placement, pricing, promotion, and packaging. Often, the marketing research team would create the product for the consumer, promote it so consumers desire it, package it so the consumers would notice it, and price it so consumers would buy it. The same has happened with church. Christianity has been re-vamped, mass marketed, wrapped in nice foils to attract, and priced just right so people would be willing to invest a Sunday morning to get what they want.

In the re-creation of Christianity, I think many changes in our basic theology have been made that hurt our faith more than help. Christianity has been reduced often to a three-step plan, or five things you need to do to feel fulfilled, or say the sinner's prayer and you'll have a much deeper more meaningful life. Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life, albeit it has some good basic principles, I think sells short the message of Jesus and God...as if this is ALL you need to really have a purpose filled life. Err, no. And then there's the MASS marketing of these products. We are SELLING the gospel of Christ...or are we? We aren't...we are SELLING a watered down Christianity...what makes it weird is all the paraphenelia that goes along with the mass marketed books...like Purpose Driven mugs, Purpose Driven notebooks with pens, Purpose Driven toilet paper etc. Likewise, when Prayer of Jabez was in heat, the same thing there...it was a big fad, a trend, a something that ALL the "in" Christians needed to buy, to have, to possess in order to be cool and in tune with Jesus and all that crap. The Gotta-have-it product. Many churches thought, wow, this is exactly the thing we need to get a boost....back in the pews, and back in the coffers...let's do the 40 Days of Purpose Driving. One particular church FORCED all small groups to go through that stuff before they were allowed to get into other materials...I hate to say it, but weekly, we sat there, feeling like idiots, listening to Pastor Warren taking scripture out of context and making analogies that didn't really make sense and probably the most interesting thing was to compare the difference of aloha shirt patterns each week. Sorry to like on Purpose Driven Life, but it's merely ONE example of mass marketed Christianity...to SELL God-Lite, for profit...

And then there's the packaging. Modern Western Mega-Churches successfully sell this image of "happy-happy family family loving dancing singing life will be all better when you buy Jesus" - hence, the yuppies and young yuppies demographics...people with kids with disposable income. Was youth a priority at my former church (announced on a particular Sunday morning) - yes, the youth choir was...because having happy singing and dancing children on stage was the cash cow for the church for that season...followed by youth adult CDs and all the while implying that if you follow Jesus, you too will have these perfect "it's a Small World chidren's choir". Or how about the dancing, the singing, the big flag waving, the sign dancing...y'know, I'm glad they effectively use art in ministry....they call it redeeming the arts for Jesus, but....are they really redeeming it or exploiting it? Having kids sing and dance and be all happy happy...that's not art, that's fricking child slave labor if you ask me. Do these kids get discipled in Christ, learn about Jesus in a deep meaningful way...heck no. They learn that those who sing and dance the best are glorified the most, and the rest get to be rocks and grass in the Christmas play.

Pricing....the cost of buying Jesus is a few bucks here and there, and spending two hours each Sunday morning to show up at church...to start. The value...being fed this surreal image of a perfect existence and prolonging the hope of ever obtaining it. Then, at this particular church, it costs more...

Bait and Switch

All the glitter and glammer that caught the eyes of the young rich couple with two.five kids....Bait. People see this happy-happy image of what Jesus can do for your life...wow. The sermons, sometimes are challenging, and heck, are funny as hell, the dancing - top class, the skits - deep, touching, dramatic, moving, etc. The whole service is very entertaining, like Magic of Polynesia minus the $30 ticket.

The Switch - unfortunately at this church, they SUCKED at deeper meaningful experiences with God...discipleship as I'd call it (it may be different now). So...what did they do to raise the PRICE of pursuing Christianity? "Through the Servant's Entrance" they called it. If you serve wholeheartedly....you will grow deeper in Christ. I really wish this was true...but without proper discipleship, mentorship, oversight...people just get burned out. People come, try out Jesus...and then leave..."I tried Jesus...yeah, it okay, but well, it just wasn't for me." It's the leaving with a bad taste of Jesus in their mouth that really pissed me off.

Of course, it didn't happen with ALL Christians at the church...some remained, doing well and pursuing God in a deeper more meaningful way. However, many others remain in a very shallow existence with God. But, what really hurts, is for many, that relentless serving, and shallow seeker sensitive services are all they are going to know and experience of Christ. Seeker Sensitive - what the hell is that? It means one thing to me...tailoring the product to the consumer by watering down Christ.

Copy Cat Copy Cat that's Where It's At

After I left I went to another church. This church was much smaller, although much older. One of the saddest things happened at this new smaller church....the BLIND mimicking of the massive mega-church...trying to apply business marketing principles without really know what they were doing. At this new church, I ran a leadership retreat for the pastor...to bring the church together, unite them, for a hopefully new era of renewed passion in the desperate pursuit of God. Well, after a long hard journey...I was burned bad...use, abused, and not feeling all that great...I was hoping that my efforts, my prayers, my life given was not in vain. It was. The follow up the pastor did turned my entire head of hair white in a single sitting. He gathered the leaders and potential leadership and pulled out "Saddleback Sam"...I died. I literally died. Saddleback Sam, is basically a VALS analysis sketch of Saddleback's target demographics. We were suppose to do the same with our church to begin changing the face of our congregation... It was a waste of time, partially because the pastor had NO idea what he was doing, and more so, I wasn't in agreement with them hunting down people to bring to service as opposed to openly receiving those God brings to them.

Many churches copy the mega-churches, or now the new emergent church, or the post-modern church (did they even rear their heads yet?). What hurts Christianity, is this foolishly blind pursuit of church "glory and success" in getting more numbers BY copying the churches that have a LOT of members. I think what these churches fail to do, is to increase the value of one's place at church...in ushering folks into a deeper more meaningful pursuit of Jesus, not seeker sensitive Christianity....not more song and dance and glitter to woo. And what if the mimicking wasn't foolishly blind?

As for Wayne Cordeiro's comment about questioning whether them doing worship the way they do worship is the right thing to do....you know what would make my day...to know that they ask the hard questions, asking whether what they do is right...or wrong, good and helpful, or damaging in the long run, etc. I KNOW they don't ask these questions. And if they did, it never ever ever ever ever trickled down to the rest of the ministries.

In our post-modern era of church, before we progress, I think we need to address those hard questions, face them head on and go into the unpretty places and address them and deal. The greatest danger of power and fame is corruption....and I think it's very very easy for mega-churches, with all their business know-hows, to get caught in this massive web of "bigger is better". It's like drug addicts...they need more, and more, and more...it's the same here with these churches. They must remain the product leaders, to constantly create and re-create the product, packaging, promotion, etc. to milk the golden cash cow.

Do people worship Jesus...or the church? Do they go to church to seek God, or entertainment? Does the church worship God, or itself? Is it about bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth, or increasing the powerbase of the church? These are not easy questions to answer at times, but they are a necessity. When the church board is filled with business sharks...I worry...especially when they worship the golden cash cow.

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Re: Mega-Churches: Good and Bad?

Postby scrivener » Tue Jan 01, 2008 11:13 pm

Holy cow, Foxen, what a great post. I have a lot to say in response, but I'm almost out of juice on this laptop, so it'll have to wait until tomorrow. Meanwhile, take a look at this list of the top 100 largest churches in America. The blogger does not say where he got his data, which makes me a little suspicious, but the numbers look pretty right to me. Note New Hope at #42. Also, note that Rick Warren is at #4 and Joel Osteen (bleah) is at #1.
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Re: Mega-Churches: Good and Bad?

Postby Pua'i » Fri Jan 04, 2008 9:14 am

wow.

What a thoughtful stream of posts here.

I remember being 11 years old, having received my second Catholic rite only a year earlier (first communion), and upon our family moving to Maui, found these neighbors who put a Chick tract into my young hands and proceeded to scare me to my bones into praying for all of the hell-bound beloved family members. I cried many, many tears back then.

Until we left Maui I stayed with this new church, which would later come to become quite the mega-church there. Who needed the rest of the world? We had a nifty coop going right here.

Well, life got in the way and my family moved back to my home isle. Throughout high school I was quite the well-meaning prayer warrior to many of my peers and dears, but I never did find quite that same church/community like we had in Maui. I grew older and married into a family who belonged to another church that I thought was "dead". I attended service faithfully, while praying hard for everyone in there that they would each truly come to know Christ. (My husband said I was judgmental and derided me of "praying behind everybody's back".)

Then something happened. My grandmother asked me to drive her to mass on Sundays. She never left the church that I grew up in. I complied, intent on lifting up everyone in that church that they, too, might have the scales fall from their eyes and finally have that personal relationship with Christ.

About a year into it, the Lord gave me the opportunity to deepen my faith by knocking me onto my knees. I don't name people on the internet, but as she has long passed on, I credit Mrs Vierra who prayed with me and helped me open my eyes and humble my heart, and read the bible for myself to develop that relationship, and stop grieving the holy spirit by concerning myself with the works of others' faith. Mrs Vierra was a charismatic Catholic; blew me over as I had sworn to myself she was AOG. This old lady, who I judged because her pidgin was so thick, had lived in England a few years earning her degree in theology. It was so ingrained in me to judge her; I remember scanning her face looking for Satan. I left that bible study group for several months to get her behind me. But she never gave up on me, and I accepted her invitation to go to lunch and :::::gave her the gas. Well, in return she asked me to come back to studies as we were only going to focus on "the words in red" for the next phase of bible studies (usual pattern was we took things in chunks of eras; i.e. diasporas, exiles, Hellenic period, gospel harmonies and studied from their corresponding books).

Well I saw for myself that I was turning into quite the little Pharisee. Nobody said it to me. No passive-aggressive meta-programming. Just God. Through the words of his son in red. I can write ten more paragraphs about how it humbled me, but suffice to say, the scales fell from my eyes and I got on my knees to thank the Lord for bringing Mrs Vierra into my life and giving me a beautiful example of grace. And then I asked for her forgiveness.

To summarize my tangent, my walk with Christ includes not worrying about how churches do it in order to grow their body. If it points towards Jesus and building a relationship with him, then it is easy for me to praise their faith and/through their works.

So if that church works for you (the proverbial "you") then rock on, Christian soldier! Salt and light!
2 Corinthians 12:9 (King James Version)
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
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