There has been a mega church phenomena in the world for the last several decades. By mega church, I am referring to a church that has an average attendance of two to three thousand attendees on a Sunday. I have many friends in NYC, the USA and in numerous nations in various continents who have powerful mega churches with great influence that do not fit the points in this article; however, I have also known of many churches that model many or some of these points. The mega church trend has increased dramatically!
In the 1980s, only a few churches in the USA had more than a thousand attendees; now, there are so many it is hard to track. For example, I was told recently by a mega church pastor friend that in the city of Atlanta alone, there are forty churches with more than ten thousand in attendance. In developing nations, churches of thirty thousand or more began emerging several decades ago. Currently, there are numerous churches with over fifty to one hundred thousand members in Latin America, Asia and Africa. That being said, in all my travels I have observed that mega churches do not always have mega influence.
I write this article because many people falsely assume that just because a church has several thousand members, it has a great impact; this is not always true due to several factors.
The following are eight signs a mega church has minor influence:
1- The surrounding community is not transformed
I have observed some at-risk communities in the world that have not experienced a quality of life change in spite of a mega church being in its proximity. I have even known of mega churches claiming they are in revival that have not even reached their surrounding community (they had more of a tourist revival). This flies in the face of the impact the gospel is supposed to have in lifting cities (read Isaiah 61:1-4; Acts 17:6; 19:17-20). Truly, the gospel is supposed to lift whole communities, not just bless the church subculture. A mega church that does not positively affect their community has minor influence.
2-Leaders of are not developed from within
I have observed how many mega churches have to import their pastoral and worship team leadership from outside their local church. This is obviously because they are not nurturing leaders within their own congregation. Consequently, the continual importing of key leaders from outside, usually results in much leadership turnover. This is due to outsiders usually not understanding the culture of their new city, nor having the DNA of the church. Many merely view working at a mega church as a job opportunity more than a calling from God. A mega church that depends primarily upon outside entities to supply their leadership has minor influence.
3-The focus is on gathering crowds, not making disciples
There are numerous mega churches that have not produced any notable disciples. There is no discipleship focus or process in the church since it is mainly focused on gathering crowds. Mega churches that do not produce disciples have minor influence.
4- There is no outlet for spiritual gifts to develop
Scripture encourages believers to develop in spiritual gifts (1Cor 12 and Romans 12 include both the manifestations of the Spirit and the motivational gifts) While it is difficult for large churches to allow these gifts to flourish in the context of a large Sunday service, there are many other outlets to empower people. Church-led small groups is one vehicle that can provide the environment for people to mature and discover their divine purpose. Mega churches that have no outlet for spiritual gifts to flourish among their people have minor influence.
5- There is little infrastructure
There are some mega churches with huge crowds that do not have a viable skeletal frame with layers of leadership, shepherding, accountability, and church government
(some are even run like a ” mom and pop” shop!)!
Everything is built upon the Sunday experience that is supported by a (sometimes burned out) professional administrative staff. Consequently, when someone needs shepherding, counseling, mentoring or even a hospital visit, there are no systems or teams in place to provide this necessity. Mega churches with a small infrastructure often have minor influence.
6-The preaching is not focused on Scripture
Unfortunately, many mega churches specialize in preaching “self-help” motivational messages that do not mature believers in the Word. God’s people are destroyed because of a lack of biblical knowledge (Hosea 4:6). Mega churches without a system of serious ordered learning of the bible have minor influence.
7- Most of the activity is centralized in a building
Many mega churches focus all the equipping of their congregation for Sunday ministry.
Their concentration is focused on what happens inside the four walls of their building rather than training believers to make a difference in the marketplace from Monday to Saturday. Hence, in spite of the plethora of church programs, the church is merely perpetuating a subculture of dependence upon a building for ministry rather than breaking out and influencing the public square. Mega churches that perpetuate church programs to the exclusion of the public arena have minor influence.
8- They do not serve the community
There are many mega churches that merely provide good preaching and good worship on Sunday, but do nothing practical to serve the felt needs of their community. Jesus not only preached the word, but He also fed the multitudes and healed the sick. Hence, Jesus met the practical and material needs of people, not just their spiritual needs. Mega churches that do nothing to serve their community have minor influence.
Finally, I am not one that is against mega churches. All the points above are also an issue with most small to mid-size churches. Also, God requires growth and multiplication with everything He does. This does not always have to come in the form of a mega church but can take place when a smaller church sends out many leaders and or plants other churches. May all churches, in spite of their size, mature and equip the saints for the work of the ministry so that Christ can fill all things (Ephesians 4:10-12).