Sunday, March 16, 2008

Empire Building

The “Preacher" tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9b) And yet we continue to think that what we have created is unique to our time, our culture, and us. This latest creation is the mega church and yet in the 1960’s-70’sI grew up in a mega church of 3000 in attendance before the term was even thought up. In fact the first church had between 8000 and 20,000 members within the first month of its existence. Over the last couple of years the concept of mega churches has taken another step in its development. But the satellite and main campus is not a new concept.

In church history the main campuses were know as either metropolitans or dioceses and the satellites were known as parishes. About a year ago I was in a meeting with a church that was considering merging with a mega church to become one of their satellites. A question from the floor asked the question: “What is the plan for the mega church? How big is big enough? And are you considering starting a new denomination?” The senior pastor laughed off the question and went on to the next question. This church seems to struggle being able to articulate a vision beyond adding to their property, or their attendance numbers.

I’ve had the opportunity of seeing this question answered by other mega churches and I applaud their willingness to share their vision. One such church has espoused the dream of 40 multiplying churches and 10 campuses reaching 250,000 churches by the year 2020. In reality they are expecting 80 churches (Each of the 40 churches planting 40 daughter churches who will also plant daughter churches). Now that’s a vision!

This church is well on their way of achieving their goal. They have planted almost 20 churches in the past 10 years and 3 satellite campuses. They have seen the birth of at least one granddaughter church and are developing a church plant is New York.

No hiding their vision, no keeping all of their resources for themselves. No worry about birthing a daughter church and fearing that God will fail to supply their needs at the mother church. They live open handedly, understanding that the financial resources that they have are in reality God’s. They realize that they are stewards of His wealth and resources.

Some churches are more concerned with their survival that they are willing to thwart or slow down the advancement of the Kingdom if it threatens their continued existence.

So what are some of the positives and negatives of mega churches?

Positive: Provide
Conferences created and shared with other churches in the area, region, nation, or even international
Programs that are better due to size
Resources shared with others
Encouragement of smaller church pastors and staff
Less duplication of facilities and staff
More money for ministry

Negative: Mirroring of American culture
Size - Bigger is Better
Monetary - Resources horded
Fame (or false humility) over true servanthood
Influencing of area churches
Siphoning of Expertise from smaller congregations
Drivenness to achieve rather than conformation to Kingdom living
Show over Substance of services and ministries.

Like most things that we humans put our hand to, the results of our efforts rise and fall on our integrity. What do you find in your position? How will you use it? For who will you use it? To further your desires or God’s Kingdom?

Learning to live open handedly,

Dr. Val

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