Review of the Mega Church

I’m at a loss. I thought I knew what to expect before going, but there are just some situations in life that can’t be prepared for apparently. Most recently, the situation I’m referring to is attending a mega church. Now you know as well as I do that I’m not talking about anything that has to do with a church’s size. As an example, recently while I was visiting family in Kansas City I attended the largest United Methodist church in the USA. It is not a mega church.

Back in Denver, I visited a mega church last Sunday. What a joke. Seriously. There is no possible way someone can read a single verse from the Old or New Testament and conclude that a mega church is what any of those folks envisioned. The only people I can think of who envision a mega church as having something to do with the gospel or first or second century churches are tenth-graders who just got back from a week-long church camp. Oh, and people who were never taught that it’s okay to have a lot of money. (If you happen to be one of these wealthy heathens, check out Peter Drucker’s idea about profit in his book Management. It explains your dilemma most succinctly, I think. Profit equals responsibility–nothing more. And, yes, we’re all watching you and evaluating your decisions. So please lead by example).

Most church services have a specific routine. They begin with worship, pass the offering plate, preach, sing one final song, and release people in time for football/nascar. Conversely, the mega church begins with preaching. The preaching seems genuine, is crazy professional, and refers to bible verses a few times to help us remember the reason we showed up in the first place. Then, after the preaching comes the worship. It’s a rock concert. Super professional. It’s also difficult to imagine it is at all authentic. I couldn’t help but picture the musicians practicing putting their hands in the air at specific moments in the songs much like Kirk Hammett of Metallica does in the tuning room before he takes the stage. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess. Next, only after the crowd is softened up for an hour does the offering plate get passed around. Finally, as if seventh-graders embarrassed to be seen at Kmart with their mom, the auditorium crowd disperses quickly. Now, you might be inclined to think this is because they’re busy people, what with having to painstakingly decide how to spend all that money, but I think it’s because they know what you and I know. That it’s a lie. The whole thing. One. Big. Lie.

But if it makes you feel good and no one gets hurt, what’s the harm in doing it, right?

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44 comments

    • Pete Deakon

      Ha. Thanks. I have to admit when I saw “red flag” I was thinking “Oh man! Did I post this on a dating site? Does this send a red flag to potential female suitors?” Ha. What does that say about me? Red flag to a bull. Got it. Yes. I would love to debate the pastors of that church about their intentions. 🙂

      Pete

      Like

  1. Alex

    Spot on, something about R.R. doesn’t smell right. My biggest issue, no communion. That is a sacred time for myself to remember Christ and all he’s done for me, as well discuss my laundry list of shenanigans (sins). R.R. appeals to the masses, and that’s great, but I’m not the masses. I do plan on continuing to worship at R.R., because of the message and the message alone. AND to find the culprit who’s been skipping out on their pre-church showers. Unexceptable. As you and Sheryl Crow eluded to; if it makes you happy….it can’t be that bad….

    Like

  2. Ashley

    Reblogged this on ashtx and commented:
    People often ask why I don’t attend church, this is why to a degree. I worship in my own way, at my own time. I have issue with the fact we build these huge temples of worship when Jesus was clear that we should NOT be doing that. Why can’t the mega churches take all that money and spread it out into the world?

    Like

  3. sierraschwartz

    I went to a local mega church once and the experience was…unsettling. it was so staged and fake. Everyone had huge played on smiles. No one looked you in eyes or said ‘hello’. The presence of God felt totally absent. I later found out the pastor got into trouble for stealing from the church.

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  4. just-another-minute

    Mixed emotions on this one. My church, one that some would call a mega church (but we are only about 5000), starts with the praise band, and then moves onto the sermon. Both run about 30 minutes a piece. The praise band sings songs that prepare our hearts for the sermon.

    I came from a small church – around 75-100 people, but moved here because it reached me in a new way. It also touched my daughters in a way that the old church didn’t – and for once they wanted to go to church. And they wanted to go for the right reasons – not the band, not the man up front, but for Jesus and the message that was helping them. They heard a sermon, biblically based, applied to them today in a way that they could understand. I grew because of the small groups (in old terms – Sunday school) and the relationships I found in that group.

    I feel that all small c churches need to reach the audience for which they are reaching for – whether they are big or small, modern or traditional. I have seen small churches fail miserably when it comes to helping someone with their new found faith, or searching out what the whole “Jesus thing is all about.” I have also seen large churches do an awful job with those very things as well.

    In my opinion, a Christian cannot go it alone, and they need to find a small c church home. One that feeds their soul. One that allows them to question and get answers. Again, my church is a mega church. But we work in small groups. Through the grace of God, we broadcast sermons on the internet presence to reach anyone of cares to listen around the world. Through the grace of God, we support an orphanage in Thailand… and encourage mission trips. For the most part, our paid staff is very small. I guess I don’t see my small c church as a huge temple. I see it as a launching off point where I can serve multiple needs and in multiple directions. I see it as a way to get energized and then head out into the world. If I came to church and only saw a big box, holding lots of people, gather lots of money, and repeat, then I agree that Jesus would never approve. But some mega churches are saying you need to do more than show up once a week. COR (not my church) is a good example of that.

    My question is this. If one person is reached, is it bad? If one person starts their journey here and then grows in their faith, is it bad?

    Just asking, not arguing.

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    • Pete Deakon

      Hey Michael,

      You bring up a couple good points. First, children. More importantly, our children. There are several good things about church (service to humanity being the largest) that they should learn and are difficult to learn otherwise. But a lot of people would argue (I think) that they were harmed, or a lot of children are harmed by the belief systems within a church, especially male-female dynamics. Second, your last question. “If one person…” Obviously, one person is worth everything, right? That’s what the crucifixion teaches, right? After the crucifixion the most common response to your question I’ve heard is “Jesus/God does the saving, so all we can do is answer questions and love.”

      About a year ago I wrote this post: http://eff-five.com/2013/10/23/the-building-block/ It was my attempt to offer a solution rather than complain. That’s kinda where I’m still at. After church I told my pals Alex and Young Wump (chiming in above) that any discussions I’ve ever entered into with buddies about “the real” concluded with the right course of action being homeless missions. By that I mean individuals spreading the gospel and trusting God to provide meals/shelter/clothes etc. Obviously there’s not much room for a family there. And I doubt you or I believe everyone should be a missionary. Logistics kinda get in the way. So progress is stifled again.

      How’s this for forging ahead? If we know that people–the human being–can be softened up, and in this softened state, give money to support things that they might not otherwise support and which might not be worthy of support, then a church should not collect money after the softening. Just on principle. If we live in a world that has the phrase “smoke and mirrors” to refer to magicians and deceit (whether innocent or malicious) then a church shouldn’t use smoke machines to enhance the worship music. And as you will read in my Building Block post linked above, if Jesus had a healthy emphasis on table dinners, then a church should too. As D. Wallace and Ashley and Sierra above mentioned, a lack of heart often tops the list of reasons educated/informed people stop attending church. Jesus’ ministry is rife with “sell everything you have”, “let the dead bury the dead”, and “it’s easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than a rich man get into the kingdom of heaven”. Wealth and lavishness is not difficult to detect. I don’t think a projector and a HD PowerPoint presentation is going to ever get the credit for some one person’s ticket in. Probably a handshake, a smile, a hug–things of that nature.

      On the whole, my first, guttural response to your comment, its authenticity and its questions, is that prayer is probably somewhere in the answer. I have been all over the spectrum of belief in my life. But I’ve never not cared. As I’m getting older–the more I read, the more I see–the more I’m inclined to criticize parts of life that don’t include heart–especially when their own source material indicates they should. What do you think? Is there solid ground forming from which we can step forward in our respective quests that necessarily involve one another at this point?

      Pete

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      • m.j. photography

        Pete… spot on for me as well… “the more I’m inclined to criticize parts of life that don’t include heart.” Like i noted below, before I read your response above, we need to sharpen each other. We need to encourage each other. We need to be vehicles for God to use. We cannot, and should not, walk away. We should do, what you are doing, and question why something is done the way it is.

        My only comments is God uses all things. If that means that one person comes because of the smoke, dedicates his life to Christ, and then moves out into the world to do what he was called to do – then the smoke was needed. If the smoke is as you said above – smoke and mirrors – it is up to all of us to point out the harm this is doing.

        Lastly, sorry about writing so much on your site. I should not have taken a stand on your site. I just enjoy honest dialog. Take care.

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        • Pete Deakon

          No worries man. I’m always open to this discussion. I have to say I wasn’t sure if it was me or someone else you were responding to in that other one. Good to see that we’re not so far apart. Have a good evening.

          Pete

          PS – I am compelled to recommend NT Wright’s book series called “The New Testament and the People of God.” It’s well worth the time investment.

          Like

  5. Kurt Struble

    wull …. nobody gets hurt …?? how about nobody gets ”not hurt” … like … where were the masses of christians when tens of thousands of innocent people were killed after a war was fought based on lies … ? listening to the band with their palms pointed toward the heavens … ?? (being an ex-episcopalian, i never understood that … ) i dropped out of organized religion when none of the churches were concerned or interested enough to protest institutionalized murder of innocent people …. so … why are there tens of thousands of homeless kids …. roaming around ? where’s the churches … ?? what they say they believe in and what they DO are two different things … and those multi million dollar edifices ….. !! what the fuck?? wull … i think jesus would be ashamed ….. ks SO … BY their In-action … a LOT a LOT a LOT of people are being hurt ….. and a LOT of money is being wasted ….. ks

    Like

    • Pete Deakon

      One of my favorite phrases I learned while in the Air Force was to add “over” to WTF? Like a radio call. “What the fuck, over.” What the fuck indeed. I’m not entirely sure what/which mass of innocent people being killed has you so riled up, but you are clearly not alone in your disgust at organizations. Churches are empty. They are old. I think they are dying. And to me it’s a form of suicide. We’re out there. We’re interested. But like you said, actions speak louder than words. If there’s any walking the talk going on, it is somehow being hidden from our sight. I don’t know. I’m going to keep doing my best in any case. The only way to get there is together. That’s for certain. Thanks for commenting.

      Pete

      Like

      • Kurt Struble

        google the number of civilian deaths that resulted from the invasion of iraq ….. .. i DO believe that jesus existed and that he taught and did amazing things and set a grand example … many martyrs in history have done this but his was spectacular in some way …. some kind of ‘energy’ was released …. it’s not all ‘hype’ and the scriptures are real especially the agnostic scriptures which give women a WHOLE lot more credit than those scriptures the churches use …. well anyway …. i believe in his philosophy and his example …. but i think he’d be fucking appalled at what he’d see if he came back today … oh and … fundamentalist christians may have one thing right …. we are on a collision course with another world religion and nothing can stop it …. there’s too much inertia … it all started with the pope sending unemployed soldiers to the middle east to convert the muslims … it’s a thousand year old battle that is reaching a tipping point ,..,.. call it armageddon or whatever you want …. i think some shit is going to happen …. nothing we can do about it except have the awareness to make the right decisions … . so what the fuck do you think, over … ? ks and out … gotta go ‘t’bed. ks

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  6. m.j. photography

    So let me get this straight… because SOME “Christians” ignore things, all small c churches are bad? Or, to give you the benefit of the doubt, because MOST “Christians” ignore things, all small c churches are bad? Why not find a little c church that IS doing something. embrace that church and help it move forward in a way that glorifies Christ? Are you saying that no one in any church did anything to try and address any of the things you said above? Seriously? Some are actually doing something. But small c church cannot do it by themselves. It takes all of God’s people to do that. It takes the big c church. They are doing it as the big c Church – coming together and working together. It is up to each of us to sharpen one another. To keep us on the right path. If we choose to walk away are we any better than those who either don’t know better or choose to ignore the things you noted above?

    To me that is the problem of lumping “organized religion” all together. There are churches, and those who call themselves members and believers, who are just there for the entertainment and the social experience. Then there are others who truly carry out His commandments. they are the big c church – not a small church, not a mega church, not a traditional or contemporary…they are His church. They are His people.

    I am not perfect and I struggle like anyone else. There is more that I personally could be doing. On top of that, the church I attend has many people who fit your description above. But, there are MANY who attend who are His believers and who actually are making a difference. They are joining together and supporting one another rather than walking away and saying oh well. The things we feel called to do, and feel His hand touching, is more than the few mere things I noted above. God is allowing anyone who is willing to address issues locally, nationally and internationally. And those Christ followers are doing beyond our mere walls. They are doing with with other Christians around the globe.

    In the end, personally I think that Jesus would question anyone who willingly walked away from His people…His true believers…His church. Ambiguity tolerance is what causes pain and hurt…

    Like

    • Pete Deakon

      Hey Ann,

      Glad to see I (and others now) am not the only one. I’m pretty happy today because I visited another church and had an awesome experience. As we walked to our cars George said, “Pete. This was by far and away the best church yet.” I agreed. The search just narrowed significantly. Powerful stuff.

      Pete

      Like

  7. Karen Campbell

    “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37

    I too attend a mega church, so I’m saddened that you, a fellow Christian, would post a blanket assessment against a group of people seeking and serving Jesus Christ solely because their style does not appeal to you. I don’t think you can know the heart of the congregation or their leadership by attending one service. As I go through different seasons of my life, my gifts, talents and desires change as well. Before I moved to this area I attended and loved a small church. I taught Sunday School, attended Bible Studies and the Women’s Retreats, shared my testimony at the Women’s breakfast, and stuck around for fellowship. It was a close knit loving group. Unfortunately small churches are also filled with imperfect people. The church was rocked by the youth pastor’s admission of a long term affair.

    Our church did not set out to become a mega church, but people kept coming. They began small, meeting in a small rented space until bursting at the seams. Why did so many come? Should they be judged because they are sharing the gospel to a growing number of people? Is God upset that so many are attracted and hearing his word? Is God honored when we discount or judge those who do not follow our traditions or taking an offering at what we believe is an appropriate place in the service?

    Our mega church preached the Word of God. We have given $14M to causes in our community and throughout the world over the last two years. Our members are the largest sponsors of children through Compassion International. We funded a center in Cambodia that rescues young girls from sex trafficking, and provided resources to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. We train Christian leaders, including teenagers we hire over their summer breaks to mentor as they serve. We host Thrive Leadership Conferences for Pastors and Christian leaders. We have funded and participated in compassion projects in Kenya, China, Colombia, and the Congo. We contracted with our local mall to hold Easter services there, sharing the gospel with people who would never have attended a church. As a result, the mall asked us to partner with them to build a temporary skating rink for Christmas and host a free daycare center for shopping parents during. Children attended Sunday School in the mall as mom and dad shopped. The Salvation Army has a truck receiving donations at every service and we keep giving. We close our church every year so every member can serve as volunteers in our community. During that weekend we clean homes for the elderly and handicapped, spruce up schools and group homes, etc. We have volunteers that minister to people in our congregation and community who are grieving, addicted, experiencing marital problems, etc. We have a ministry that works with local businesses to train and coach the unemployed and coordinate employer needs.

    I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Many of these ministries take the united efforts that are best provided by a large body of believers. Unfortunately, that usually can’t happen by uniting separate churches because the members of the different churches are threated by each other or busy judging the timing of the offering plate or whether another believer’s hand is raised out of love for our Savior or showmanship. Sorry, that sounded angry, which I am not. I just hope to encourage us all to embrace our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Could we do it better? Always. But I assure you that I love God and seek to know him and serve him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind and love my neighbor as myself, even from a seat at a mega church. I am sad that we feel it’s okay to attack God’s people for where they worship or how they worship – which is why I really hesitated responding to your post! Please know I only share in love and in hopes that you will reconsider the value of any church sharing the Good News. God bless!

    Like

    • Pete Deakon

      Hey Karen,

      What you describe doesn’t sound anything like the mega church I reviewed. Maybe it’s just semantics, then? Another thought that comes to mind (which says more about my style than anything else) is that I’ve maintained for years now that if worldwide service was my personal goal, then I’d join the Mormon church. They’re winning in that category right now, right?

      If I may be so bold as to speak for others that have chimed in that they like the review, I think we’re all in the category that agrees with some variation of the bumper sticker “Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church.” I am a fully capable free human being that can discern whether an (any) organization’s actions match up to their stated intentions. And I get really nervous about joining any organization that might stifle this freedom/creativity with the application of contextually questionable Bible verses.

      Be that as it may, I’m happy to report I visited a great church yesterday. Blog post tomorrow will highlight why I thought so.

      On the whole, I feel the love that you spent in the time it took to write a comment. Thanks. We’ll get there together.

      Pete

      Like

  8. Bowrag

    Wow Pete… This is a bull’s-eye.
    We have a couple of these Mega-Churches down here in Houston. I honestly think that Houston is the headquarters for Mega Churches! One of ours is so large they purchased the former Houston Rocket’s Stadium. The preacher is so pretty is concerns me.

    I can see your point that, “if it reaches one person and makes people happy then what is the problem?” For each his own?

    It is a product of our new culture of “feel good” lifestyle. Nobody wants to do the work, they just want the rewards. They want to be entertained or they will change the station, etc…

    I would like to think that these pastors/preachers/leaders are brilliant businessmen who see the opportunity but also are Christian. They are filling a need that our society has developed. How can we fault them? Brilliant. They are setting up their family financially for generations and they are making the masses feel better for an hour a week.

    Free Enterprise at its finest – in God’s name we pray.

    – Bow

    Like

  9. Karen Campbell

    Oh Pete, I like you. You’ve had a lot of people chime in against mega churches, and believe me, my discernment antenna are and always will be up – no matter what size church I attend. Like you, I just love the traditional hymns! But, I can’t say I am no less led to tears worshiping my Lord and Savior when our worship leader (former Journey rock & roll guitarist Lincoln Brewster) is at the helm. For God’s sake he gave up mainstream music to serve and follow Jesus!

    I’m sure there are small churches and mega churches alike who misuse tithes intended to further the kingdom of God. I’m just taking issue with you lumping all mega churches into you one experience, as you would take issue with my negative review of your church based on one small church I visited. Aren’t we all just one body, one church under God? I envision Jesus so saddened to see us debating which style of worship, which size church, is best. Still, I continue…

    Yes, I’m sure our church is very bureaucratic and corporate in comparison to yours, but it has to be. We have a pastor who speaks the gospel and appeals to the masses (no offense to your pastor). Should he close the sanctuary doors once he hits your acceptable quota? Or as he does, allow all to come to Christ through our church and, like the idea of delegation and teamwork first outlined in Exodus 18, share Godly duties with others? People like me can still gather in smaller groups with other Christians from our church and nearby churches to dig into God’s Holy Word.

    My mother refuses to attend church with me for the reasons you site. She has a pre-conceived notion of what church ought to look like and discounts the authenticity of anything that goes beyond those pre-conceived, Spirit-limiting boundaries. She takes issue with anyone who lifts their hand in praise during worship, in your church or mine, sure that it’s all show. I say that’s not for us to judge, Jesus knows.

    And, oh my, but your implication that only the Mormon church is lost enough to care about the world… just use your concordance to locate all the Bible has to say about reaching the world. Though we were born and raised in our little corner of America, God created the entire world, and sent his son to die for it…

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

    Do people abuse their God-given talents and use them for personal gain? Yes, even as Pastors in some mega churches and in some intimate, traditional churches. Despite that, I choose to trust in Jesus and give every church the benefit of the doubt before lumping them together and passing judgment on them.

    Your Sister in Christ,
    Karen

    Like

    • Pete Deakon

      Hey Karen,

      So many words. Ha. But you did it right to begin with flattery. I just finished up tomorrow’s post. It’s the best I can do in response. Sorry. (Kinda have a personal goal of posting m-f). Oh, and what is it about me that women push their mothers on me? I dated a woman once who I played the piano for, and she said, “Oh, my mom would like this.” I asked, “Is she single?” Then her mom came over and after I played–I kid you not–said, “Oh, my mother would love this.” You’re mom sounds sharp to me. 🙂

      Pete

      Like

  10. bendixon89

    If I could like this more than once, I would. My best answer would be: Where you are when you start the walk doesn’t matter, he will change your heart as you walk with him.

    Like

  11. Karen Campbell

    I’ll tell my mom about your new book, I bet she’ll like it :). Haha! Just one more thought while anxiously awaiting your new post. James 4:11-12 “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor? Together we are God’s church and I think it grieves him when we pass judgment on each other over personal preferences on worship styles.

    Like

  12. JoAnne Silvia

    I’ve been to a lot of different kinds of churches and prefer my small church, with 30 to 40 people attending on Sundays, a traditional Episcopal service and a casually diverse group of people. We want to grow, because its a struggle to get by on a shoestring, though we’ve managed for many years. Some people like red, some like blue. We all have our own tastes, preferences and comfort zones. With all the choices, Isn’t it a good thing that there’s something out there for everybody?

    Like

    • Pete Deakon

      Hey JoAnne,

      Yes. When I started attending again a bit at two summers ago I had the idea that there should be only one. But the search and the feedback from my posts has really had an affect on me. I’ll do it my way. You do it yours. (Though, my way is still best.) 😉

      Pete

      Like

  13. Pingback: Some Conclusions For Today | Captain's Log
  14. mcbeales

    I’m not a church goer, have never been baptised, and I’m pretty much the only one in our family who even believes in God. We all do follow a “Christian” way of life though, in being as decent, honest and kind to our fellow as we can muster. I honestly believe that’s the best way to act (as hard as it is sometimes!) but I don’t see these “simple” things being preached enough by organised religions, and the bigger the scale (that “mega-church” is just scary) the less they seem to be.

    Liked by 1 person

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