11 Things You Shouldn’t Have to Learn from Megachurches

Outreach Magazine recently published a piece titled What Can My Church Learn from a Megachurch? Now, I don’t have a bone to pick with megachurches (i.e. localized denominations). But, I do have some problems with the list of “11 basic principles gleaned from megachurches.” Here are some examples:

  • Don’t strive for size; strive to serve God.
  • Know your strengths and put them to work.
  • Worship is not just a “Sunday thing.”
  • Connect the congregation.
  • Sanctification isn’t just for newcomers.

Really? We had to learn these from megachurches? Aren’t these just basic principles of ministry that church has long known about and has tried to implement faithfully (with greater and lesser success) from the very beginning?

Ah, but that wouldn’t get anyone’s attention. Would it? You can’t write an article explaining “11 Things the Church Has Always Known it Should Do.” Who would read that? It’s not new. It’s not exciting. If you can’t make it “cutting edge,” why should I bother reading it?

Also, why connect these lessons to megachurches? As I read through the list, I found myself thinking of several smaller churches in town that exemplify nearly every one of these principles. Why not learn from them? I think we all know the answer to that. Who wants to learn from churches that obviously are not succeeding (because they’re small, of course)? If you want a hearing, you need a success story. And, success means size. That bigger-is-better mentality is hard to escape in our culture. (By the way, I don’t assume that bigger is worse, either.) So, instead of explaining that these are principles that could be learned from any good pastor, the list associates these principles with megachurches, and gains a wider hearing in the process.

This is just another reminder, then, that newer and bigger does not always equate to better. We know that, but this belief is so pervasive that it sneaks up on us when we’re not looking. So, occasional reminders help.

If you get a second to look at the list, I’d be curious to hear what you think. In addition to the two fundamental mistakes I’ve listed above, I think the list has some other problems. But, I’ve gone on long enough. So, I’ll wait to hear your thoughts on these 11 principles for ministry.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on May 26, 2011, in Ministry, Pastoral Theology. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Marc–I wholeheartedly agree. It doesn’t make sense to me that any of these lessons could be gleaned solely from a megachurch.

    In fact, I wonder about some of the findings of the article, for example, “It is clear from our research that megachurches operate more evangelistic programs than smaller churches do. Even more important, their membership is involved in evangelism to a greater extent. It is also true that the fastest-growing megachurches have the largest percentages of their members engaged in outreach activities.” Really? Have they gone out and done research on churches of every size and structure? Moreover, more evangelistic programs/activities does not necessarily equal more evangelism.

    Just my two cents.

  2. From the research I’ve seen, it probably is true that megachurches run more evangelistic programs, but you’re right that this does not necessarily correlate to more (meaningful) evangelism. But, I think we can give them credit for (often) doing a better job of creating a “culture” of evangelism. Now, “At what expense?” is a question worth asking.

  3. Marc, I think your reaction is right on. It’s a list of healthy tips for churches, and not necessarily synonymous with megachurches.

    Here’s an article I was hired to write a while back…a little outdated, but still has some of the same theme.

    http://www.churchsupportservices.org/article.php?id=110

  4. I agree completely. Do we really even know what “it” is that causes one congregation to explode and another to stay smaller, even though both are doing the same things? ps. It is also a myth that mega churches water down the gospel…

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