Friday, March 23, 2007

Irony - Using the word properly

I realize this may seem rather picky, but it's a common error of language that I find really irritating. Watching the evening news today I was amazed to hear one of the broadcasters misuse the word irony. It's a very common error but a newscaster should know better. Many people use the word irony when they should be using the word unusual, or perhaps interesting, but certainly not irony. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language the meaning of irony is the use of words to express something different from and opposite to their literal meaning. Irony does not mean unusual; it means opposite. Steve Martin was right when, in the movie Roxanne, he said that nobody gets irony any more.

Thursday, March 15, 2007 and megachurches part two

Here is part two of the responses to my OpEd about megachurches. For an explanation see part one of the post.

Posted by Leonard

Friday, March 02, 2007 at 12:47 PM

Jan, forgive me if I seem confrontational, I hope not but you stuck a nerve in me. My response is in GENERALITIES. “The small church has what the mega-church does not - Community.” I disagree. This is a myth I believe simply because we do not understand what true community produces. True community produces good deeds everywhere that fosters good will in the hearts of the lost and the found which opens the door to the good news. Acts 2 reminds us that no one had needs – Good deeds. The favor of all people was on them – Good will. God added daily – good news.

Small churches, for the most part, are small not because they offer community but because they are closed systems of relationships, opportunity and feed a more spiritual sounding consumeristic need.

The small church has no more community than the large church has, in fact it would be my experience as a pastor that the small church lacks community simply because it lacks what true community produces. Small churches do not offer more intimate relationships they simple offer smaller environments in which people consume. Small churches do not have dynamic small group ministries where people share life together. They do not have higher service ministry ratios, they do not have higher giving ratios, they do not possess the things that true community produces such as a passion for the lost, a hunger to see God’s work done.

“As a small group church leader I want the consumers to go...” As any church leader we should want the consumer to consume the very things that would change them from a reservoir to a river. The problem is not that people consume, it is what they consume. Jesus knew this when he said come to me a drink, come to me and consume could be read there. Are we as church leaders willing to quit looking at the size of our churches from the large, small, mega perspective and grab a hold of a God sized, compelling vision that cannot be resisted. May it be in a positive way Turkish Delight to our souls in that the more we eat the more we want.

Finally, here is my thinking about consumers and shoppers. I cannot control what people want to eat. My son did not like eggs until dad fixed them his own special way. Now he says to me, “Dad, can you make me some special eggs?” He did not like rice until dad fixed the rice in a flavor he truly enjoyed. What I have control over is how the meal is prepared and how the meal is served. I believe many people shop and hop because we have not figured out how to prepare a meal that is seasoned with God’s grace and truth. We have not figured how to present such a meal in an appealing or appetizing way. I actually don’t think about the consumer as much as I think about the meal. The meal is our vision of who God is and what he created us to do. If this is crystal clear, people will still consume it and the result will be kingdom impact and God’s glory.

Jan, I know that this is more than likely what you were saying and if not once again I apologize for my abruptness. God bless all of you today.

Posted by Dan Moore

Friday, March 02, 2007 at 5:38 PM

Big always comes across as better and successful in the American culture. With a growing nation, there are going to be growing churches. Do big churches grow at the expense of small churches? Some do and some don’t. Are some small churches “stuck on small?” Yes. Can you find community in big and small churches. Yes. I have been a member of a church of 2,000 and a church of 12.

One thing mega-churches do well is that they become “hiding places” for people who are hurting and leave a small church. This is not always the small church’s fault. I have known couples who were experiencing the process of divorce quiety leave their small church of many years and go their separate ways to mega-churches. Just one example. There are more dynamics in play that this article attempts to describe.

Posted by Jan

Saturday, March 03, 2007 at 9:34 AM

Good points Leonard.

I guess what I meant to say is that the advantage of a small church is that they can more easily offer community.

We can easily incorporate our youth for example into our services, and spontaneously go out for coffee as a large church percentage. And if a small church takes advantage of that, they can tap into the community at large’s desire for community and real relationships.

We go out to eat just about every Sunday after worship. And over half of our congregation comes with us and hangs out for several hours. I don’t think any mega church could say that. There may be groups of people who hang out, but inter-generational spontaneous community takes work for a big group. It takes time to organize people and advertise and make phone calls. 10 minutes and the whole congregation knows we’ve decided to go for something.

I can remember sitting at meetings and trying to come up with a plan for our large church to break out of their little groups. Here, we’ve got Grandpa teasing the little kids, going out to eat with them, playing games on Friday night with them. Along with grandpa and a couple of kids are a high schooler, a junior higher or two and two Busters. We don’t see youth sitting as a separate church under the balcony together. They are taking offering, standing up to read scripture, etc. They are sitting in leadership planning sessions, out witnessing with adults and coming up with strategies to reach our neighborhood for Christ.

Last week a high school girl came and told me that our church was the most exciting place to be and she couldnt’ wait to get there. We have NO youth group. She attends the women’s Bible Study. But she’s excited about her faith and growing the kingdom and can’t wait to come. There’s no clever programming here to win the youth over. It’s pure community in my opinion, plus passion for Christ.

And you are right, it’s not ALL the consumers that I want to see go. It’s the long time Christian consumers who intend to leave anyway when they find something better. But meanwhile, they are intent on demanding their pet program and keeping things the way they’ve always been.
The I will never be happy, even if I get my way, but I do enjoy being a pain person.

I’ve seen this type of Christian consumer leave, and sit in a big church and not have the forum to cause trouble and be demanding. Unfortunately, usually this type of person returns to the small congregation where they can wield their influence to their heart’s content.

We’ve just lost these types after a 4 year struggle. PRAISE God! We are seeing individuals making life decisions for Christ weekly now.

And hey Leonard, a good confrontation is healthy once in awhile! No offense taken here at all.

Posted by Dan Moore

Saturday, March 03, 2007 at 10:28 AM

Leonard, I know you are speaking in generalities. I guess I did not attend those churches that fit your “generalities” as my experience was different. You do make one solid point - we cannot control the desires and wants of the “consumer” - but we can control what we do. Jan’s take on small churches fits my experiences. We don’t have youth programs or singles programs or much more than worship and Sunday School. We our best to engage the singles, youths, and seniors in creative ways. We were losing children in our Awana program when they reached the age of ten so we surveyed our children. We had a very successful VBS and decided to ask what they liked about VBS. We took their ideas, scrapped the Awana program, and now have a children’s ministry that keeps children up through junior high. All without compromising the Bible teaching necessary for their growth. As a result we have added a couple of new families each year because we care to listen and engage the children. Being a small church has helped because our culture now is able to be flexible and adjust to meeting changing ministry needs.

Posted by Jan

Saturday, March 03, 2007 at 10:11 PM

Dan, we are getting rid of our Awana program for exactly the same reason, and that any older kids involved are all kids from other churches. At 10 we lose all kids who come from the community.

Sorry for the off topic!

Posted by Jim

Monday, March 05, 2007 at 2:19 AM

"Get the spirit” (comment 2) - you really articulated a fantastic synopsis of what I have observed as well. I served for years on staff in a rather small (250-300) church that had been plateaued for the majority of its history, and now serve in a growing body of around 2500 (mini-mega?. Your points are dead in line with my experience in both situations.

Another interesting thing I have observed is that the larger church has held staff for longer tenures. We have had 4 pastors in 50 years, and many of the current and past staff members have served over a decade - half almost two decades.

While I expected the working environment to be more stressful at a larger church, in general, I found the opposite was true for me. Greater staff allows for more specialization - this helps at least a little bit to stave off quick burnout. I don’t have to be all things to all people like I did in a smaller church.

There is alot more activities in the larger church, but that’s to be expected as you grow. Most ministries are started out of a sincere desire to reach folks and/or serve the body. Just because a group of members is having a Tuesday night Sweater Knit for Third World Poodles doesn’t mean you have to attend. Now in a small church they’d be asking “Where’s the pastor - doesn’t he know that the missionary’s poodles get cold in Romania?” Tsk, tsk.

Posted by Noel

Monday, March 05, 2007 at 9:30 AM


Read Thomas Ranier’s excellent book “Breakout Churches.” One of the things he talks about is the length of tenure with senior leadership in churches. Apparently, every church he surveyed that “broke out” had leadership that had been there for decades.

Two of my co-pastors have been with our church since its inception in 1977. They were on the original church plant team. They bring such a great sense of history and experience with them. That balances out my impetuousness and inexperience.

Posted by David Charlton

Monday, March 05, 2007 at 10:24 AM

The comments to the OpEd I wrote have been very interesting. Those of Leonard, in particular, have been of great interest to me (a very insightful guy, although I am certainly in disagreement with some of what he says). One thing I have observed, however, is that the response of some has been to automatically criticize smaller churches. If someone wants to write an article that is critical of small churches that is fine; there are plenty of things to criticize. I have been the pastor of my small church (150 - 200 worship attendance) for over 15 years and I can give you plenty of ideas. But criticizing small churches in the context of discussion of my OpEd still does not address the issues that I raised. To criticize small churches wanders from my original question of the implications of large churches. Small churches may also have spiritual consumers, but when you find it on the scale of megachurches, that has greater implications for the gospel, for the Kingdom of God and for how society views churches.

Posted by Leonard

Monday, March 05, 2007 at 12:12 PM

David, let me try to respond to your piece. You state: “One of those implications is the damage suffered by all of the smaller churches that serve as the source of members for mega-churches.” And you state: A large portion of the growth of mega-churches—perhaps the majority—comes as a direct result of people moving from smaller to larger congregations.

The damage suffered is a dramatic statement that in my opinion blames the mega churches for the failure of smaller churches to reach people for Christ. The average church in America is 85 people. It reaches 1 person for Christ per 100 people in attendance. That means less than 1 person per year is coming to Christ. In the average church in America. 50% of all churches led no one to Christ this past year. Is the Mega-church taking the people who would lead someone to Christ in the small church and that is why they are not? Is the mega-church responsible for this or is the smaller church and it’s leadership? You site the growth of mega-churches is from the small church. But of the small church is not reaching anyone for Christ, yet sustaining numbers even despite the loss of people to the mega church, where are those people coming from. The answer, from other churches. The small church benefits just as much, if not more from member transfer than the mega-church.

Your article states that one implication of the Mega church is the “the creation of the religious consumer.” All people are consumers. The mega-church did not “create” the religious consumer. This phenomenon is just as prevalent in a small church as a mid sized church and in a large church or a mega-church. You show no evidence that the mega-church created the consumer as you state. What if sin created the consumer?

What if my neighbors desire to see his kids find safe, healthy activities and his marriage to be healed and the addiction to alcohol broken could be met in a church that had the ability to offer programs designed for kids during the week and a ministry for struggling couples and a recovery ministry? Is it the Mega churches feeding the consumer or is it the mega churches meeting a need a church of 85 cannot?

Your article states: The result of this shift has been the decimation of countless smaller churches and the decline of community-based congregations. Just as more and more businesses succumb to the “big box” retailers, increasing numbers of small churches are losing members to the “big box” churches. And just as the loss of local businesses hurts neighborhoods, so does the decline of local churches that serve the communities in which they are based. Could it be that the decimation of smaller churches is not the fault of the Mega church but the fault of leaders who have lost God’s vision to reach people for Christ, grow them to maturity and then empower them to lead? Could it be that the smaller church primarily seeks to grow people to maturity while talking about reaching people for Christ?

David, your piece states implications of the mega church but those implications are all negative and can be directly attributed to other factors. In fact it is my belief that other factors are more to cause than the mega-church but the mega church is easier to blame. That is what I felt your piece did. The responses here on MMI were in answer to Todd’s question. s this a fair treatise of the ‘mega-church’? Or is it a public whine session from the pastor of a smaller church? So our responses while not to your piece directly are to Todd’s question.

I guess you could say I disagree with you on some points here.

Posted by Jan

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 at 1:52 PM

Sorry but I can’t let you get away with this one:
“But of the small church is not reaching anyone for Christ, yet sustaining numbers even despite the loss of people to the mega church, where are those people coming from.”

Our little church of 40 has seen over a hundred individuals make decisions for Christ in the last 6 months. Too much generalization in my opinon. Area and culture make a big difference.

We are in a post-modern affluent community. It is like pulling teeth to get someone to walk in the door of the church. So, our small church does a lot of transfer growth, new people go and then move out the door for somewhere more inexpensive to live, as more come in the door.

Or we have loooooong term ministry. It has typically taken about 3 years from the time someone makes a decsion to the time he or she walks in the church doors.

Posted by Juan Montoya

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 at 3:13 PM

This conversation is one worth having and I appreciate the different thoughts shared.

I would only like to add one thing.

There seems to be an assumption that people who leave their smaller communities to attend megachurches are going for the “show”. There has already been enough conversation regarding “spiritual consumerism”.

But could it just as simply be that they are going where they feel they are being spiritually fed best?

Often it comes down to the quality of the Word that is preached and the impact it has on their lives. That has nothing to do with the biggest facility or best music. Just who is helping me live more like Jesus?

If people are driving two counties away to attend a place, perhaps it’s because they are being fed and experiencing true community.

Posted by Leonard

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 at 8:04 PM

Thanks Jan,

I appreciate the conversation. As for me, those statistics do not come from me but from the web site I linked and other peoples work on churches. I stand by the figures. We have had over 225 people make decisions for Christ in the past 30 months. Your church nor mine is the norm. Statistically speaking the average church is about 85 people. statistically speaking about 1 per 100 people in attendance make a decision for Christ. 1 - 100, 2 -200, 3 -300 and so on. Statistically that means less than 1 persons per church in this country makes a decision for Christ. Over half the churches in this country did not lead anyone to Christ in the past 12 months. That is over 200,000 churches reaching no person for Christ. When they grow, where do those people come from? Other churches. What this means is that small churches maintain and or grow by and large off the people that come from other churches.

The article states that large churches suck people out of little churches and I believe the word was damage. Truth is all churches gather people from other churches. There is a re-alignment of the sheep going on all the time. I am not judging the re-alignment but too often the small church pastor does. I am judging the lack of impact. For crying out loud, the king of the universe lives inside us, the creator of everything seen and unseen is our master, the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is at work within the church and over 200,000 churches did not reach anyone for Christ. No wonder Mark Driscoll cusses (insert a winking, smiley face here)

If pastors and Christ followers who make up the majority of the church in this country would stop whining about the mega-church and it’s damage, quit debating over labels of emergent , modern, missional and the likes in order to simply ask, no beg, God for the privilege of sharing Christ with someone we could literally change the world. But what do I know, I didn’t go to seminary.

I say praise God for your church and for it’s impact. May that kind of church increase.

Posted by Jan

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 at 8:56 PM

"If pastors and Christ followers who make up the majority of the church in this country would stop whining about the mega-church and it’s damage, quit debating over labels of emergent , modern, missional and the likes in order to simply ask, no beg, God for the privilege of sharing Christ with someone we could literally change the world.”

I think we have a lot in common Leonard

I say a hearty AMEN!

Posted by David Charlton

Sunday, March 11, 2007 at 9:23 PM

I appreciate the reactions to my OpEd piece on megachurches, although I believe many people have misunderstood what I was trying to say. To imply that I was engaging in public whining or just reacting with sour grapes has been very distressing to me. It’s obvious that we are going to have some disagreement on this topic, but unless I am asked a question directly I am going to try and stay out of the remainder of this discussion.

Posted by Leonard

Monday, March 12, 2007 at 12:30 AM

David, I asked 7 questions in my previous response to your post but you say that there are no direct questions. Could you answer those? I am not trying to argue with you I just think you make some bold statements and use words that are inflammatory. Could you please re-read my post and answer some of my questions.

One reason I am going at this is that for a long time blame has been set at the feet of large churches and never once have I read a smaller church pastor say, “I might be to blame or at least a big part of the reason we are not growing.” You see I did pastor one of those small churches and I was more to blame for our lack of growth than any other church. In fact, no church around me had any influence within our walls. Here are some additional questions.

David your article uses words and phrases like “damaging” “the decimation of countless smaller churches” and you lay at the feet of the mega church the “creation of the religious consumer.”

Do you think that in light of this discussion that those words might be too strong?

Do you think that the local small church is much more responsible for it’s impact and growth than the mega church?

How responsible is strong leadership for the size and impact of the small church?

How does a strong pastor with a strong vision from God impact a small church?

Posted by David Charlton

Monday, March 12, 2007 at 10:40 AM

Leonard –
I did not say there were no direct questions; I said that I was not going to respond unless asked any more direct questions. In response to your most recent post, here goes –

First, I believe you are arguing with me, which is fine if that’s what you want to do. I sense that you are wanting to make a point about small churches that goes beyond the issues I have raised in my OpEd, which are about megachurches. I again emphasize an earlier statement I made that criticizing smaller churches is really not a response to the issues I have raised about megachurches. If you want to criticize smaller churches I encourage you to write a post specifically about that issue.

You write – “One reason I am going at this is that for a long time blame has been set at the feet of large churches and never once have I read a smaller church pastor say, ‘I might be to blame or at least a big part of the reason we are not growing.’”
Are you wishing to wring some kind of apology or confession out of small church pastors? Would you like a small church pastor, such as me, to make such a confession? Personally, I will do no such thing. For one, our small church is growing. There are many reasons why, and I will not take the credit (although plenty of people want to blame pastors when churches don’t grow, as your posts demonstrate). During my tenure, our church has more than doubled in worship attendance and added many new ministries to our community. The assumption is made – far too often, in my opinion – that small churches are not growing. This is simply not true. One of the issues that must be taken into consideration here are basic demographics. A church in a small rural community of, for example, 200 people is not going to become a megachurch. It is reasonable to conclude that a church in a city of half a million or more will have a chance to become a megachurch because demographics can work in their favor. And when we compare small churches to megachurches, let’s compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges. Our church, for instance, in a comparison of worship attendance to population drew almost 23% of our community to worship. The closest megachurch compared at a little less than 8%. Our per capita giving was about 2 ½ times that of the closest megachurch. So are they more effective because they have larger numbers or are we because we have better percentages? I’m not trying to say we’re more effective than our neighboring megachurch, I’m just saying there are other ways to look at whether or not small churches are growing or reaching their communities, as you seem to be implying small churches are doing neither. And why are you so insistent on wanting to blame small church pastors? Over the years I have watched with great sorrow as many dedicated and Jesus-following pastors have been abused and mistreated by their congregations. The reality is that probably no pastor can grow some small churches as they (the congregation) are so lacking in vision and love for their community. I believe that strong pastoral leadership is of incredible importance, but a church can grow even if it is lacking such leadership. I am sorry if a church blamed you for a lack of growth. If they did, I would say that they did so unfairly. It’s very easy for a church to blame their pastor in order to avoid taking any responsibility for their own lack of vision, love, etc.

Do I think words such as “damaging” “the decimation of countless smaller churches” and the “creation of the religious consumer” are too strong? No. Our neighboring megachurch has at times aggressively sought to take our members. If people from our congregation want to go to the megachurch that is their choice, but we do not target members of other churches and I believe it is wrong for any church to do such a thing. Furthermore, I do believe that the move in our society toward consolidation, which is what much of the megachurch movement is, has created some damaging dynamics that we must begin to consider. Ten or twenty years down the road, when the megachurch movement has aged a little more, we may see other dynamics that move us away from megachurches.

“Do you think that the local small church is much more responsible for it’s impact and growth than the mega church?” I believe every church is responsible for its impact and growth, no more or less than any other church.

“How responsible is strong leadership for the size and impact of the small church?” Strong leadership is incredibly important in any size church, and it is important to have strong leadership among pastors, staff, and lay members of the church. The leadership dynamic is different in small and large churches though. In small churches, leadership is generally very pastorally oriented while in the megachurch it is more like that of a CEO directing a large company (and I’m not saying that in a negative way; simply as a way of finding a comparison).

“How does a strong pastor with a strong vision from God impact a small church?” A strong pastor with a strong vision from God is going to have an impact on any size church, although the dynamic for how that vision is shared and carried out is going to be different in large and small churches. The pastor of any church should be a person of vision and engage in vision casting on a regular basis, but it’s a vision that cannot simply be of the pastor but must be one that is in keeping with the vision of God as demonstrated through the life and ministry of Jesus. I’m currently preaching a series called The Dream of God, which is a series about vision and I’m using significant events from the life and ministry of Jesus to give us insight into the vision of God.

This is a long reply, and I have yet to respond to your previous post. I was out of town last week and did very little responding to anything but will respond soon. Right now I am out of time and will have to respond to the other post later. I realize some of what I have written here may sound abrupt, but I am trying to answer as directly as possible.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 and megachurches part one

In a previous post I mentioned publishing an OpEd piece I wrote for the Louisville Courier-Journal about megachurches. There have been quite a few responses and a couple of people have really been grinding an axe with me. That's fine and I know when something is published there will be responses - positive and negative. I stand by every word I wrote and believe that many of my critics are still missing my original point, which is that the megachurch movement has some serious implications and some of them are negative. To simply criticize small churches in response is to ignore the issues I was raising in my OpEd. I encourage anyone who so desires to write as critically as they want about small churches; there are certainly plenty of negatives that can be mentioned and I could offer plenty of material. I find it particularly frustrating that Todd Rhoades of set up the discussion by insinuating that my column was a public whine session from the pastor of a smaller church and that it could read like sour grapes. I find those comments to be insulting, but he's free to have his opinion. I am posting below the responses from You can find the original OpEd in my previous posts. I am breaking this into two posts because of length and I have edited out the email addresses of the responders and a few other style changes. Let me know what you think.

Posted by Brian W.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 9:53 AM

It’s interesting to me, Todd, that you ask readers if they think this pastor’s letter is a “public whine session” and if it “read(s) like sour grapes”. It’s neither.

Charlton doesn’t rant and rave against the megachurches and wish they would shut up. He makes very good points about the consumer mentality people regarding churches nowadays; I myself am guilty of much of what he talks about. After years of selfishly “shopping” churches, I found that a huge megachurch doesn’t give you everything you’re looking for.

The church is not a corporation, or a big place that satisfies all your felt needs. It is the body of Christ, and it’s something you need to be faithful to being a part of. I have found that I need to seek God to where He wants me to go, and that big is not always best. Sometimes in big churches you’re another pew warmer, and you can be more lonely amongst 17,000 people than you ever would be amongst 170, or 17.

I have moved to a smaller church, and while it is not perfect, I hope it gives me the opportunity to connect to God’s people, and an opportunity to serve and give, and grow, instead of taking and consuming.

Posted by get the spirit

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 10:17 AM

Served at a mega for many yrs. Then after equiping leaders and servants, God called me to a small-midsize church (250+). Here’s what I’ve noticed…

1) Overall attitude is TOTALLY different. In a larger “church”, there’s much more TEAM in everything, while smaller churches overall attitude is apathetic towards involvement and commitment.

2) Clarity of vision or lack of in smaller churches. It seems like every “gimmick” under the sun is talked about but action rarely gets done-talk is cheap, and people know that.

3) Lack of real authentic pastoral leadership. While you’d think as a servant you’d get pastoral care and guidance in a smaller church, what’s true is just the opposite. As soon as I arrived on staff at the larger church, I was “assigned” an overseer for my own personal life walk. I guess in the smaller church, the pastors are too busy, or maybe they figure I don’t need it (or worse yet, don’t want it-hey, I’m a person too). Contrary to belief, you shouldn’t get lost in ANY church, if it’s real.

4) Focus! With people on board with the VISION-MISSION-PURPOSE, it’s much easier. Ok, size doesn’t have anything to do with that…

5) Living as true examples - maybe it’s the “it’s all about me” attitude that keeps so many smaller churches from growing (and I’m not talking numbers-I’m talking about lives changed).

6) In smaller churches it’s so easy to call OUTREACH sending money abroad for ministry while your own community is dying. I had to contact another church in my town to do any kind of outreach locally.

7) Preach Pastor, don’t inform. It seems like with some smaller churches, nobody wants to “offend” someone by saying something that’s not policically correct. Pastor, preach something that’s going to hit my heart AND something I can LIVE out!. I’ve had enough of playing church-type sermons. Dynamic preaching (Ed Young, TD Jakes, Bill Hybals, Rick Warren, Tom Mullins, Eddie Long, etc...and I’ve served under one of them) is what hits everyone. THAT’s what people are drawn to, not a coffee bar.

8) Get the Holy Spirit out of the box! My observation with smaller churches is things are way too formatted ("we only have an hour so let’s get this done” mentality). If that means you’re lead to do an alter call and people come, so what if the next service is a little late.

9) Get organized-and STAY there. That’s much easier to do when you have a large base of servants, but it CAN be done no matter how many people lead.

10) Lead your leaders to LEAD. In a smaller church, it seems like the lead pastor sometimes thinks he is the only true called person that can ever lead anything. God places many people in place for specific reasons. Listen to God, then let Him do His thing. God equips many, and qualifies the called. Little is MUCH when God is in it.

Ok, most of these can go either way. BUT, if God is really IN it, does size really matter....? It seems to me what the REAL problem is no matter what size your church is, are you REALLY doing what God wants from His bride, or are you playing church and coasting? Time to fes up, church.

James 4:6 - But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourself before God, church, and HE will lead you towards righteousness.

Posted by Billy

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 10:18 AM

What is the author’s evidence that “decimation of countless smaller churches and the decline of community-based congregations” has occurred with the rise of large churches?

It’s not that I find that idea hard to swallow, but I expect an author making these kinds of claims to offer more than anecdotal evidence.

Posted by Todd Rhoades

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 10:28 AM

Brian… I think my question was balanced. I asked if it was a fair treatise or a whine session (David didn’t really have too much positive to say about large churches to say the least).

My only comment is that sometimes in a small church you are also a pew warmer. I just wonder if the number of pew warmers (or, I’m sorry, seat warmers) are more only in the megachurch because there are more seats.

Do you see the slantedness of your statements? The small church, to you, provides an opportunity to “connect to God’s people, and an opportunity to serve and give, and grow, instead of taking and consuming.”

That’s great… for you.

But the supposition that most who attend large churches are ‘taking and consuming’ is what I’m questioning. Remember too, that many people in large churches connect with God’s people, and are actively serving, giving, and growing. The large church ALSO provides that opportunity. Let’s not get hung up over size.

What I’m trying to get to is the overall attitude of the small church toward the large church. In many situations, it appears that it is one of jealousy. (I’m not saying that’s your take, personally) That’s what I don’t get.


Posted by Pastor Dan

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 10:48 AM

get the spirit - great comment - you hit the nail on the head.

We have to get over the jealousy thing and realize that if our goal is to see people come to know Christ personaly and grow up in a relationship with Him then we ought to rejoice when anothert church is doing that - we are “Playing on the same team”

Posted by Dan

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 10:52 AM

I think the word “consume” has become a word with a completely negative connotation. I think everyone “consumes"-- from people who like their small church, to people sitting on their butts in the back of the Mega-church everyone is consuming something. I think whether people “sin” in their consuming is a different story. Whether that happens is often dependant on how the church challenges the believers to live as bond-servants. And to be honest the greatest servent is going to “consume” or reap benefits of being at their church and that’s not always “bad” or “wrong.”

I think when it comes to church, the misssion is more important than the size. The mission should always include growth. When I say “growth” I mean spiritual growth. Sprititual growth should always include numeric growth. That is the great commision.

Now, I do know of mega churches who have started and stolen 99% of their people, so that within months, they are huge. And I wouldn’t say that they’ve done a great job at making new disciples. The church that I pastor (on a team of 5 co-pastors) surveys the church every year and we’ve found that 50% of the people in our congregation were previously unchurched. Still, not ideal, and yes we get some transfer growth, but many of our people are on mission for their friends and neighbors and I think that is what is important.

Posted by Billy

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 11:02 AM


If small churches put such a high priority on discipleship (as implied by most critics of megachurches), AND megachurches get big quick by stealing 99% of their people from these small churches, THEN it would stand to reason that megachurches have a pretty significant population of people who have already been heavily ‘discipled’ and are looking for something beyond yet another Bible study or life issues class.

I just don’t see anything good coming from the obvious envy and hatred between churches of whatever size.


Posted by Brian W.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 11:27 AM

Todd, it wasn’t my intent to imply or state your question wasn’t balanced. It must have been your terminology that caught my eye.

You are right when you remind me that people can warm pews in small churches as well as larger ones.

But let me clarify some of my ‘slanted’ statements and then you can judge whether I’m biased or not.

Megachurches can do great things and use vast resources for the kingdom of God. People can plug into those churches and in turn, grow in their relationship with God because of some of those vast resources the megas have to give their people that smaller ones don’t.

Megachurches are reaching people who would NEVER step foot in another type of church.

But, some people do shop for churches, and while you can’t blame the megachurch for that mentality, it is an issue we need to consider sooner or later. I know people who go to church XYZ or church ABC because the singing is better, or the preaching is better, or the youth program has more toys to work with, or the singles ministry has more hot babes.

Now, to be ‘balanced’, you can have those rationales for the right reasons - mainly to honor Jesus or get closer to Him in your own walk - or for reasons that do not take Jesus into account at all.

I think Jesus wants us all to plug into some body of believers, where we can grow and become more like Him, and grow into mature believers who can get out and serve others and live our lives for Him, not for ourselves. For some people megachurches help them do just that. Others can do the same in a mid-sized church. For some people, small churches help them do just that, because they get lost in the vastness of a big church, and feel like they’re slipping thru the cracks.

Todd, your response helped remind me of a need for all sizes of churches in our culture.

Posted by Pastor Al

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 11:51 AM

You know as I read the article I thought, “Man this guy is making some good points.” Ok, then I started reading your comments and I thought, “Man you guys are making some good points.”

It all comes down to a matter of perspective. The balance I have found over the years is to keep my eyes on the Lord and try and view things from His perspective… when I do I can see God working in and through Mega and Small churches alike! In the words of Rodney King “Can’t we all just get along?”


Posted by James Laws

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 1:29 PM

As a church planter that is set to launch on this Easter Sunday all I can say is it takes all types and sizes of churches to reach different kinds of people. For me, larger churches are an inspiration. I find most arguments against megachurches to be completely unfounded. Every church has the potential of doing things wrong and right, regardless of size, but that doesn’t mean every church is. Instead of criticizing “potential” problems let’s praise “actual” results of large and small churches and thanks God for the increase.

Just a thought.

Posted by kent

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 1:35 PM

I do not believe that the megachurch is the cause of the ills of the church. i am literally surrounded by megachurches, every point on the compass has one within 5 miles from where I serve. Even with all that churchiness around me only 25% of the population attends a church.

If I am not growing it is not the fault of those around me. If there are “pewsitters” in my church that is not their fault. if they have coffee bars, I wander over and grab a cup. I have lost few to the megachruches around me. it is easy to complain, it is easy to point my finger and say it is their fault, they are too big. But that does not get the job.

I have also received people who felt lost in the megachurch, that they were looking for a family feel and less production in the worship. Bu the task at hand is the still same, to impact my community by the power of God for his kingdom. It is not my task to tend someone else church. I have enough to do, and I bless them and encourage them.

Yes it does sound like sour grapes.

Posted by Big Chris

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 2:11 PM

I think the “consumer” religious type hurts all churches, not just the ones they leave.

I used to be on staff at a small church (well, 250+) where a local big name church (Bethlehem Baptist Church - John Piper) built a satellite campus just down the street from us. The fear was that we would loose people to this church, if nothing else because of it’s association with a big name preacher. We did loose some people the first few weeks. A number of them came back within a few months. What we did discover was that while we lost some up front, we gained others as people would try that new campus out, and discover it was not what they were hoping for. We were positioned to take in these families/people who didn’t want to be a part of a big church like that. So in the end our church grew because a local mega church built in our neighborhood.

The thing we further realized is that only about 25% of the families in the area where our church was located were going to Evangelical churches. Further, only 45% were going to church at all. So there was ample market share even for a couple more mega churches to be built near us and not hurt our opportunity in our community.

Big Chris

Posted by Josh R

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 4:51 PM

We have some megachurches in our neighborhood, that are very successful because of their Life group programs. I believe that these churches’ growth has happened not because of the Charisma of their preacher, but because the Church has trained up an army of Christ loving leaders that are commisioned to spread Christ’s love on a one to one basis with everyone they meet and fellowship with.
While there are certainly some consumer Christians in these churches, there are a lot of people who attend because there are ministry opportunities there that are difficult to find in smaller churches.
Smaller churches tend to be more centralized in their ministries. The Sr Pastor is usually expected to know and serve everybody. In a large church, this is obviously impossible, and as a result there is a focus on raising up and commissioning leaders of the smaller groups.
In many cases these churches also serve the smaller churches around them because they have a venue that hosts a lot of ministry conferences, and helps build up Christian leadership throughout the whole community.
These churches may be exceptions. I don’t think it would be healthy to have 3-6000 people gathering solely for an hour a week because a preacher entertains them. It can be done correctly however.

Posted by Stewart

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 7:25 PM

I pastor a small church 150+ and have my issues with some aspects of the megachurch movement.

However… Pastor Charlton’s comments struck me as sour grapes. I don’t think most megachurch growth has been at the expense of the neighborhood church. The neighborhood churches were declining well before the megachurch movement hit. I think the megachurches have attracted many children and grandchildren of people who attend smaller churches. But the reason so many churches have been closing is because the same small group of people who had attended since the 1940s grew old together and eventually couldn’t sustain. That’s not a criticism - it’s actually a natural lifecycle if we truly believe churches are organic. It’s not fair to blame the megachurch for that.

Posted by Randy Ehle

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 12:23 AM

People occasionally quote scripture to back up their statements, so I think I’ll try that with this one: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV) Maybe I should rephrase a bit to, “What has been said will be said again.”

Honestly, I see nothing new in either Pastor Charlton’s article or in the subsequent comments. At the risk of saying nothing new, I’ll try to address Todd’s questions:

Is this a fair treatise of the ‘megachurch’? Yes and no - in spite of the assertions he makes that probably cannot be justified with facts, as Billy noted. Or is it a public whine session from the pastor of a smaller church? I won’t dignify this with a response.

Since most of the readers of MMI come from small to medium size churches… what do you think? Do they? This would be interesting information.

And maybe more importantly, what should pastors like David do in response? Does writing to the local paper on this type of thing really help, or does it read like sour grapes?

I didn’t read this as sour grapes, though I’ve seen some of those responses. If the intent was really to help people see the benefit of smaller churches (as the closing comments suggest), I think it could have been written better to serve that end. The best thing, though, is for smaller-church pastors to press on with the ministry to which they have been called, and not sweat the big churches. After all, if those big churches really have the problems they’re charged with, you wouldn’t want to serve there anyway, right?!

Posted by kent

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 8:32 AM

BTW, consumer religion was not birthed by the megachurch. It is a virus that has infected us all and it was present in our congregations prior to the depart ure of anyone from any of our churches. If they didn’t have it, they wouldn’t have left. You can make the argument that it is the small church that give rise to the consumeristic tendencies.

Posted by Leonard

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 8:52 AM

Consumerism goes back to human nature not the mega-church. Jesus had consumers, John the Baptist had consumers, every church, every culture has consumers. The article does sound a bit whiny to me as well. As for people leaving churches for another, that is not a mega-church trend, little churches do this all the time. We had several Southern Baptist churches in town and every time one got a new pastor (which was often) the rotation would begin. None of these churches were over 150, but sure enough at the drop of a pin they would go to hear the word how it should be preached, music how it should be sung…

Small church, big church, large church, mega-church… Why don’t we do this as pastors. God will you give me a God sized, compelling vision for this community and the people who live within 15 minutes of my church? Will you break my heart with this vision and then give me the COURAGE to lead? Help me leave the results up to you. Help me to not wrestle with flesh and blood as people and other churches no matter their size are not the enemy. This might be a start.

Posted by kent

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 9:41 AM

You go Leonard, right on the money!

Posted by Brian

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 11:00 AM

Amen, Leonard.

Lord, help us to take our eyes off ourselves and those in the kingdom we see as “competition” and see the lost and hurting in our area. Help us to make disciples as best WE can, and help us to pray that Your church will be built and Your kingdom will grow through us and the other churches in our area who call on Your name.


Posted by Noel

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 3:17 PM

I pastor at a church that just barely qualifies as a mega-church by the common definition (2000+ per weekend). A couple things jumped out at me as I read through this post and the comments.

First off, we never asked God for a big church nor did we really want one. You could ask any of the pastors here and you’d get the same answer. We went from 200 to 2000 in roughy five years. If you had asked me in 2001 how many people would be coming around in 2007, I would have said we were praying for 500. I say this because I wonder how many megachurches set out to be mega and how many (like us) just became megachurch despite themselves.

Secondly, we do an annual survey of our congregation and one thing we have learned is that about half of the people who attend our church had no church home before our church. While that means that 1000 or so people are brand new, it also means 1000 have come from other churches. It’s kinda the two faces of a fast growing church.

Thirdly, we don’t offer a whole lot more than most churches I know of. We also don’t have “vast resources.”

Oh, and I hope no one throws any rocks at me for this one, but I’ll close with the words of Spurgeon:

“It has been noted that those who object to numbers are often bretheren whose unsatisfactory reports should somewhat humble them.”

Posted by David Charlton

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 5:05 PM

As the author of the OpEd piece on megachurches, I want to reply to some of the comments, as I think some background would be helpful. Late last November, the Louisville Courier-Journal ran a pair of front page articles about megachurches. Noting the paper’s lack of coverage of anything to do with small churches, I decided to write an OpEd piece about megachurches and some of their implications.

This was not a case of whining in public as a small church pastor, nor was it a case of sour grapes. My point was to raise what I believe to be some significant issues related to the megachurch movement. Do I think small churches do not struggle with the same issues? No. But when you take the same issues - such as spiritual consumerism - and view them in a megachurch the implications are much larger because of the impact of megachurches. Does my church struggle with spiritual consumerism? Yes. While I’m not miminizing the problem of spiritual consumerism in my own church, when you see it on a scale of a church that draws 10,000 to 20,000 the difference in impact is significant.

A further point is about megachurches drawing away members from small churches. I live and minister two counties away from one of the largest churches in the country. When people drive across several counties to attend that church it has an impact on the communities the people leave. If enough people leave the smaller churches in their own communities it will definitely affect the ministry and witness of the smaller churches. Do I blame the megachurches for this? Not totally. People are buying into a consumer mindset and are ultimately responsible for the corresponding results, but the megachurches - in my opinion - are not saying much about this kind of faulty theology.

It’s also important to note that the sheer size of a megachurch means that its teaching and theology will gain a great deal of attention, both in the religious and secular arenas. If a megachurch is propogating bad theology, it needs to be challenged. This is one reason why I wrote the original piece for publication in the secular press. I believe some of these issues need to be discussed in that arena.

Lastly, our church will continue to do what it has always done, and that is loving and serving our witness because that is what we are called to do as Jesus.

I welcome your further comments on this site or to me personally at

Posted by Leonard

Thursday, March 01, 2007 at 1:07 AM

Consumerism in a small church looks differently than a large church but it is still consumerism. When someone says; I go here because I don’t like the parking at the big church down the street… or I go here because I want to feel like I know the pastor… or I go here because you sing hymns… I go here because you preach expository messages… I go here because it was too impersonal there, you talk less about money here, you work with kids better or worse. We let people off the hook at the small church when they consume because they can make the reasons sound more spiritual. It might be time to quite the “ big church feeds consumerism” and admit all churches feed consumerism.

I have worked on staff at different size churches and the reality is that people go where they can feel significant or that something significant is happening. People are drawn to experiences that matter.

Studies have shown that the number one reason any person attends church is at the invitation of a friend or someone significant. Why is it that small churches people do not invite others to their church. My experience of 25+ years of ministry is that smaller churches program and speak mainly to believers while focusing on growing people deep in the faith. (I am not saying this is wrong) Fast growing churches speak the language of the culture and develop ministries designed to reach people.

Gotta go now, LOST is on.

Posted by Noel

Thursday, March 01, 2007 at 2:13 PM

Very well put, Leonard.

Posted by James

Friday, March 02, 2007 at 11:05 AM

I am currently serving in a small church (approx. 150-200). The article did sound a little like public whining to me as well. I attended a “mega-church” before coming to serve here and that church was very deep spiritually and actively tried to dissuade people who were coming from other local churches to not attend there, but to go back to their home church and work for change there. Not all mega-churches are bad.

Posted by Jan

Friday, March 02, 2007 at 11:59 AM

We’ve served in both mega and small churches and are presently in a small re-start. None of the people that left this church in the past, left because of mega churches.

They left because they couldn’t get along.

First off, I think churches both small and large have unique things to offer. Small churches have what large churches are always trying to create… community.

And large church have what small churches lack, for us, primarily resources, in man power, finances, buildings, etc.

Get in the Spirit just about everything you said hits the nail on the head for me.

And my first thought in reading this piece was that consumerism isn’t a product of the mega-church. Mega-churches are just tapping into that to reach people. Consumerism is rapant in American society. And unfortunately there are Christians who buy into that mentality and church shop.

I say, go right on ahead. As a small church leader I want the consumers to go, so we can get down to the real work of God, reaching our community for Christ and making disciples.

There shouldn’t be a spirit of competition in the kingdom. There are plenty of unreached people to go around. And if a mega-church entertains those who seek entertaining, while still reaching those we would not reach, praise God.

We can let go of those would be mal-contents and focus our efforts in reaching those we can be most effective in reaching.

Monday, March 05, 2007

King of the Hill and Church Consumers

Another blog has picked up on my OpEd piece on megachurches. I have never watched the animated series King of the Hill, but the blog contains a clip from the show that is priceless, and helps make my point. Here is the address -

The Lost Tomb of Jesus

I watched The Lost Tomb of Jesus on The Discovery Channel last night. My first reaction was that it was pretty boring. About halfway through I was having trouble paying attention. The program that followed was much more interesting, as Ted Koppel moderated a discussion between Simcha Jacobvici - the director of the documentary - and others. Jacobvici was grilled pretty hard, and rightfully so, as his program was full of bad science and bad history. Koppel never let him off the hook and really revealed the problems with the program by reading quotes from some of those featured in the program. Most, if not all, of the experts Jacobvici quotes in his program distanced themselves from his findings and claimed they were quoted out of context.

This program has obvious paralleles to The DaVinci Code, especially with the way it uses materials such as the Acts of Phillip and the legends of the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and it will end the same way - it will stir a lot of short-term interest and then disappear.

One obvious casualty of the program is the reputation of Dr. James Tabor, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. A highly respected Biblical scholar, his association with the producers of this documentary and his sympathy for their conclusions are akin to a journalist with the Wall Street Journal writing for the National Enquirer. Very unfortunate.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Megachurch OpEd post on

A few days ago posted my OpEd about megachurches that was printed in the Louisville Courier-Journal back in December. It has received a number of responses, many of which were critical of what I wrote, so I thought I would post the link here so you could read them. The OpEd is also on this blog as well. I would appreciate hearing what you think.

I stand by every word of my OpEd, and I think it's interesting how people have responded, especially those who automatically started being critical of small churches. I have posted one response on mondaymorninginsight, and will probably post another in a day or so.
Here is the link, and I hope they don't mind me borrowing their picture.

Amazing Grace - The Movie

Rising above the drivel that constitutes most of what passes for movies these days comes an amazing movie - Amazing Grace. I saw the movie this afternoon and it is an incredibly well done and moving piece of art.

Everyone is familiar with the beloved hymn Amazing Grace by John Newton. While not really a movie about the hymn, it does include Newton as one of the characters and relates his powerful influence upon William Wilberforce, whose efforts led to the ending of the British slave trade. Wilberforce, powerfully portrayed by Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic in the Fantastic 4), took on the incredibly entrenched slave trade of the British Empire and then went on to help foster many other important reforms in British society.

The movie shows very, very little of the horrors of slavery. Only one or two brief scenes portray slaves and what they endured; there are also a few graphic descriptions of the suffering of the slaves, mostly descriptions of what it was like aboard the slave ships. It's really hard to imagine, hearing such horrible descriptions, how human beings could treat other human beings in such a brutal manner.

One thought kept coming to my mind as I watched the movie. From our perspective, it's easy to see the evils of slavery and wonder how anyone could have justified slavery. It's certainly a blight upon the history of the Christian faith that so many Christian people used their religious faith and the Bible to support such a horrible practice. But what is there about our time that we cannot recognize as being wrong? In two hundred years, what will our descendants see about our own time that we cannot see? When it comes to the denial of rights to other people, there is - to me - one related parallel (I'll not mention it here but feel free to post a response about what you think it is). I'm not saying we are practicing anything as horrible as slavery, but I am saying that we are continuing social support for some practices that will be seen in subsequent years as wrong.

Anyway, take the time and go see the movie. The cast is wonderfully gifted and there are many, many tremendous performances. It's so easy to complain about the number of crappy movies being produced these days, but here's one that really delivers. I give it two thumbs way, way up.