On this 1 year anniversary of this blog series, we’re excited about launching into a new phase and a new approach that we think you’ll love. From here forward, we’re going to release short, impactful posts that you can read in less than 3 minutes – 2x per week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Our next topic: The Rise of Megachurches and the Role of Small Churches. Our findings and insights will surprise and hopefully awaken you to new ways of thinking about the church landscape in America – and how to maximize your church’s impact, no matter how large or small it is.
The Megachurch Movement…
…is a RESULT of the Redefinition of “Customers”
Why is the number of megachurches growing so quickly today?
Why are those large churches thriving while small ones are struggling?
We believe it’s for reasons similar to why Walmarts are taking business away from “mom-and-pop” stores in small towns across America. Our consumer culture has spilled over into our choices of which church to attend. Churches generally no longer define members as the church and the community as the “customer” (as was the case throughout church history). As we’ve shown, most pastors instead treat members much like “customers”, more inclined to cater to them than to challenge them. Rather than churchgoers seeing themselves as the embodiment of church (between Sundays) most act as consumers of it:
- They leave if they’re not happy with something
- They shop for amenities, kids programs, sermons and music that suit them best
- They serve, give and invite their friends to church – and pastors encourage that institutional loyalty
Small churches simply lack the resources to “compete”. When a new family is seen walking into a megachurch, they nearly always come from another (smaller) church down the road. Visitors show up because megachurches offer more of all the above than smaller churches.
Churchgoers ARE the church so they shouldn’t think that way – but most do.
If members weren’t treated as “customers” and didn’t feel like “consumers”, there likely wouldn’t be a megachurch movement in the U.S. If congregants solely attended to worship the Lord, fellowship with a church family and live out the Great Commission, why would they ever choose a megachurch? Why endure driving a long(er) distance, dealing with massive crowds, parking far from the building and walking down aisles trying to find a seat in a huge auditorium. Studies show that those in large churches find it harder to make connections, easier to slip out the back door and feel less accountable for assuming any actual responsibilities – in other words, to reap all the benefits without any of the obligations.
If worship, fellowship, discipleship and engagement were their only desires, most of them would still be in smaller church families. And if members truly viewed themselves as the living, breathing church:
- The draw wouldn’t be the speaking ability of the leader, the quality of the facilities, how much fun the kids are having, or the amazing performance by the worship team
- They wouldn’t “shop” elsewhere if sermons didn’t “feed” them or send them home with practical life lessons – because they’d understand the sermon is only a small piece of what church is about
- Their focus would be on what they can do for the Lord and not what the church is doing for them
- They would no longer see what they do for their church as the full extent of their personal ministry – because they (and not the institution) are the “church”
… CAPITALIZES on the Redefinition of “Customers”
Once churches begin to realize “economies of scale”, most take advantage of that competitive advantage. In leadership meetings, they discuss strategies to beef up kids programs and enhance facilities they know smaller churches simply can’t match. Certainly, the arguments for those improvements are couched in spiritual terms but large churches always want to become larger. Each must examine its own heart to ensure that Kingdom-building outweighs empire-building. Three reliable litmus tests for whether a church’s plans are anchored in making disciples or attracting consumers are:
- Is that church also taking advantage of its scale to maximize its impact on the world around it – equipping and mobilizing the congregation effectively to Prayer, Care and Share lifestyles?
- Is it “selling” Invite, Involve, Invest – the “rallying cry of the internally-focused church” – as its primary growth strategy?
- Is its local missions approach based on transactional, big-splash events that build brand recognition – or on relational, behind-the-scenes, year-round compassion that convinces the community that it truly cares?
It’s Your Turn
Do you agree that the advent of the megachurch movement in America is largely an outgrowth of our increasingly consumer-driven culture? If not, please explain why.