Christian Standard’s annual “Megachurch” issue reached our workroom today. The editors have now broken down the listing into two segments: Megachurches (2,000-plus weekly) and Emerging Megachurches (1,000-1,999 weekly). I’m sure this is due to the fact that those in the church world who measure this sort of thing see a megachurch as 2,000 or more in weekly attendance.
Having been on the staff of the second largest megachurch in Christian Standard’s listing, I can say that there is nothing liberal theologically about this megachurch! I’ve been told that Christ's Church of the Valley is the “boil on the butt of the Restoration Movement,” but I just don’t see it. I see men and women who are committed to simple biblical Christianity. I see men and women who care about the lost. I see men and women who live by Restoration Movement slogans and refuse to short-change biblical essentials while allowing great latitude in the non-essentials. Keep in mind, however, that I’ve been told that CCV is effectively “taking me in” and warping me! But you know what? I’m still teaching the same things I taught at First Christian Church in Canton, OH; at First Church of Christ in Boise, ID; at Westwood-Cheviot Church of Christ in Cincinnati. I still believe all the things I learned from Jack Cottrell, Lewis Foster, “Wilkie” Winter, James North, and Harold Ford. My only greater loyalty is to the Lord and his Word!
There is one thing I notice more here than anywhere else I’ve been. Serving in such a large church feels like what it must be like working in corporate America. This place is huge! I sit up in the theater seats and watch 2000 to 3000 assemble for worship and wonder why God would put me in a place like this. I have a whole lot more to keep in mind than I did even in Canton, a congregation averaging 2200 at the time. You have to plan farther in advance. You struggle to promote your program simply because it must compete with hundreds of other programs many of which have a higher priority because they reach out to the lost. You wrestle with scheduling issues because there are only so many good places to meet on campus. Then there are production issues, food service or refreshment issues, technical issues, and so much more. It is actually mind boggling when you stop and think about it.
You feel like you’re in corporate America, too, because change is constant. We’re introduced to new faces almost every week. Men and women who’ve been working in one area transition to another. God calls some away to work with churches in other areas. One staffer left not long ago to work in New Orleans taking Christ to those ravaged by Katrina. Other staff members disappear for a time and then reappear because they’ve gone to Asia, the Dominican Republic, Peru, or any number of other places. In addition to the 28 ministerial staff, there are assistants, accountants, event personnel who set up and take down for activities, custodians, and thousands (yes, thousands) of volunteers! There are even security details assigned to whoever is preaching, watching over our facilities, and assuring the safety of guests. With more than 11,000 attending each weekend you can be assured there are more than a few kooks who make threats or attempt to break up services. Sometimes it is a zoo and you’re not sure who is on the wrong side of the bars.
There are so many things attached to being in a big church like this that you might be tempted to “keep it small and pure.” Things get really messy here because we reach so many people who’ve never been in church a day in their lives. Others come to us from dysfunctional churches and they need help. We get denominational people who think this place is a bit strange because its not tied to some headquarters somewhere.
One major difference between this place and most of corporate America is the accessibility of the leadership. Although I may not see the senior minister for weeks, I know that if I need to I can see him … and I don’t have to be ushered through a series of fancy offices to do it either.
These are just some random thoughts, but I thought I’d share them with some of my brothers and sisters who think I’ve “gone liberal” or “strange.” Just remember, Thomas Campbell taught that we are free to use expedients as long as they are truly expedient. All too many of our churches confuse expedients with essentials. Too many of my brethren think God inspired the methods our forefathers used rather than the Word that reveals God to us.