I’m A Small Church Pastor, And I’m Quitting My Complaining About Megachurches. Here’s Why.

I'm A Small Church Pastor, And I'm Quitting My Complaining About Megachurches. Here's Why.

I have a confession.  I have been very cynical and snarky about big-box megachurches.  I’ve been jaded about the light shows, the worship bands, and the hipster pastors in skinny jeans.  I may have, once or twice, even referred to a certain big-box church as “Six Flags Over Jesus.”

Maybe you’ve been there too.

I’ve noticed that thinking this way is really bad for my spiritual health.  It makes me bitter, cranky, critical, and judgmental.

I’m trying something different.

I am (on my better days) thanking God for megachurches.  We are on the same team, after all.  Scripture says there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.”  The megachurches are reaching people who would never walk through the doors of our church.  Through their ministry, many hurting people are helped and many lost people hear good news.

But, by the same token, the big box church ought to thank God for US.  After all, our little congregations reach people who would never darken the doors of a megachurch.  We also are doing ministry, helping people, and proclaiming the good news.

There’s a great scene in the film The Apostle, when the main character, a Pentecostal preacher played by Robert Duvall, is looking across a river, watching a Catholic priest blessing boats.  “Well padre,” he says quietly, “you do it your way, I do it mine. But we get the job done, don’t we?”

We’re not in competition with the megachurches; we’re branch offices of the same Kingdom.  We don’t have to figure out what they have that we don’t have.  Rather, we have the freedom to joyfully follow our particular calling – to gleefully embrace our eccentricities.  We have been given particular gifts to be deployed as a part of God’s kingdom.  We don’t have to try to be someone else.  It is enough for us to be ourselves and to minister to the people God providentially drops in our laps.

I’ve found that mindset liberating, even though at times, I still find myself retreating to my old snarky ways.  I still have my critiques, but they’re just not that important.  What’s more important is the ministry that I’m called to.  Because pursuing a compelling calling is much more nourishing than nursing a caustic criticism.

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10 thoughts on “I’m A Small Church Pastor, And I’m Quitting My Complaining About Megachurches. Here’s Why.

  1. As a Christ follower who regularly attends both a megachurch and a smaller church, as well as networks (can’t think of a churchy word for this) I am incredibly thankful for both! Thankful also for your friendship, pastoral heart and transparency. May God richly bless you and your church.

    • Thanks, Steve. I’m pretty sure the reality these days is that every christian is connected with any number of churches and other faith institutions. I’ve been thinking about things more as a “christian ecosystem” of interdependencies. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. I agree that we should not be cynical or snarky about megachurches; or any other churches. I also believe that often those who have a complaint see something that is not clear to others. Is there something theological to explore about the megachurch model? Does God have anything to say about how we lead the church that he has promised to build?

    • Agreed – I think that there are legitimate critiques of any model (even presbyterianism 😉 ). We would do well to listen to those critiques. I suspect that my calling is more to pay attention to the critique the megachurch model offers to my own. Not only the megachurch model – what is the critique offered by the pentecostals and the Orthodox communities. Those critiques can help me better understand the virtues and the pitfalls of my own system. As always – you ask great questions! Thanks, Rod.

  3. Nice post, Russ. Church history, both small and large, hierarchical and independent, have some rough history which makes me cringe, but I have to face the fact that God has always chosen to work through imperfect people and communities. Look at the “rock” upon which Jesus chose to build the church. It’s not easy but important to continue to ask how God is using them and us.

  4. I have separately held the same prejudices and made the same personal reconciliation. God is forever seeking us. It matters little how we are found.
    . .

  5. I have been reading a blog by Karl Vaters http://newsmallchurch.com and it has encouraged me along the same lines as your post – I have come to the conclusion that I often feel anger toward the mega church when what I am really angry at it the small church pastor that tries to employ mega church ideas as if they were the gospel – it isn’t the mega church that’s the problem it’s the need to create a comparison between our church and the way the mega church works and grows that gets us in trouble

    • David – thanks for the recommendation. I’ll go check out Karl’s blog. Thanks also for your observation about the real locus of anger about megachurches – gives me something to ponder (it always comes back to looking at the log in my own eye, rather the splinter in theirs 😉 )

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