Monday, June 11, 2007

Ministry and the Mega Church

Fox News aired an interesting segment Sunday, June 10, about mega churches and ministry. A new book contends mega churches cannot minister to individual needs as well as smaller churches. Let me address that.

First, successful ministry to individuals and families in the smaller church depends greatly on that church's personality. Many small churches never become large because they are not open to meeting a variety of needs and especially the needs of those who are not long term members. Smaller churches -- congregations from 20-400 or more -- often remain small precisely because they are a "closed culture." They see themselves as friendly and concerned and they are: with those they already know!

Second, the mega church becomes large because of a number of factors including individual and family ministry. It is not, as some suppose, merely because they entertain or "put on a show." I know my saying that may surprise some since I've been highly critical of mega churches in some of my previous blogs. Mark my words, the churches depending on "fluff" won't last! Those who successfully "grow smaller as they grow larger" will continue to grow.

Third, too many identify successful ministry to families and individuals with the direct action or ministry of the senior minister. Part of the dynamics that keep smaller or mid-size churches static is the fact that as a congregation grows the senior minister can't be directly involved in every member's lives or meet every member's needs. That doesn't mean he doesn't care and, in my opinion, it doesn't mean he refuses to do ministry (although some do). In a larger church, successful ministry to individuals and families is accomplished through a smaller group. That smaller group may be a Bible School Class, a special needs group of which there can be a huge variety, or even the traditional small group of 8-12 individuals who meet regularly for fellowship, care giving, and Bible study.

Fourth, my criticism of any congregation -- mega church, mid-sized church, or smaller church -- is not related to its size. It is related to several factors including the failure to balance the winning and teaching aspects of disciple making, a tendency to get out of balance on feeling and fact, the tendency to "dumb down" or compromise truth, the failure to recognize the nature of the Christian worldview leading to thinking you can Christianize a worldly perspective by merely changing its descriptive language, a tendency to become a corporate structure with "profit" as the bottom line, and the abandonment of the Restoration Plea, which I believe still has merit and purpose when understood. All of those critiques do not fit every mega church and mega churches, like any church, must be seen as its own entity.

Can mega churches accomplish real ministry? Of course! Do they always do so? No, but neither do smaller churches.