While I don’t know that I agree with all the conclusions of this article, I think it points out some not-so-positive aspects of the megachurch movement and modern church work in general.
Three things come to mind when I read this article.
1. Today’s “cutting-edge” is tomorrow “ho-hum.” Fads come and go whether in church or society.
We Americans are a people who like the new. When the new is out of date, we don’t like it anymore. Some can keep up with the times but many cannot. This is true of any institution whether a church, or the entertainment industry (industries), or even some things that were previously considered stalwart and able to weather any change (newspapers, for example). Sadly, it seems pastors and churches are sometimes worse than the general population when it comes to bandwagon-jumping. This needs to stop.
2. Because of number 1, programs and personalities alone are not enough to sustain a church.
This may be why the churches named in the list of 25 largest megachurches keep changing. This is also why some churches, small, mega, and in between, close when the pastor leaves. Personality is not enough to sustain a church beyond that personality’s physical presence (unless you’re Jesus). I’m glad to hear Rick Warren and others in this article say that they have appointed successors to help with the inevitable transition, but even then, it may not be smooth sailing. This leads me to my last thought.
3. Much of what is said in this article about mega churches is true of any church regardless of size.
Scott Thumma hits the nail on the head in this regard when he points out that any church is vulnerable when demographics change or when a pastor leaves. I pastor a church whose previous pastor was here 28 years. When he left, a lot of people left, too. Nothing you can do about it.
Reiner’s comments about the lifecycle of a church remaining the same regardless of size are also spot on. Any church can become consumed with the past and rest on its laurels. And any church can rise again after a slump. I don’t want to discount the sovereignty of God in any way in this discussion so I’ll say it like this: Sometimes the Lord grows a church because her members are faithful to serve, reach out, and give of themselves to faithfully see the Gospel proclaimed and people discipled. Sometimes the Lord grows a church despite the unwillingness of many of her members to do what they ought to be doing. Sometimes, the Lord just doesn’t bother at all. (Where are the seven churches of Revelation now? Their lamp stands are no more (Rev. 2:5)).
The bottom line is, as my friend Eli put it, we have to be careful to be Spirit-driven and Word-driven rather than personality-driven, regardless of our church’s size. We also have to make sure that what is happening is not mere sociology, but true spiritual growth. This means keeping the main thing the main thing. The Gospel must be front-and-center. All must revolve around Christ. And Word and Spirit must drive everything. This remains true regardless of how big or small your church is.