Response to the Walmartization of the ChurchDecember 2, 2006
3. There isn’t anything we can do to change this: I admit, this will come down hard on most of us who are upset about the emergence of the Megachurch as the primary mover and shaker of the Church in North America. But once again, Walmart is our standard here. If you are a believer in Freemarket Economics, is Walmart doing anything wrong? Well, there are those of us who believe that they hold to unfair business practices, but they are not really doing anything more different than retail stores have tried to do for decades. The difference is that they are doing it better than anyone has ever done it before. And no one can stop Walmart as long as they give us what we want.
What would have to change is that consumers would have to want more than just lower prices. And that is probably not going to happen any time soon. Economics has proven to be the most powerful force from a human point of view. It is the ignorance of how economics works that brought down Communism and Fabian Socialism. It is the ignorance of economic principles that paved the way for Adolph Hitler (take out those twentieth century history textbooks and hone up on the Weimar Republic).
This is my observation of the Megachurch phenomenon. The Megachurch has emerged, not so much by the design of God (unless you are a complete believer that God’s sovereignty means that man can never do anything apart from God’s will), but because it was the logical result of many different converging patterns. Among those, I see:
1. Generations coming up that love to do things in large groups and appreciate the community that comes when they feel lost in the group.
2. Modernistic churches that became too busy and too structured to allow people to do something besides attend almost meaningless church, committee and membership meetings.
3. An increasingly time-filled world where none of us (outside of some cabin in Wyoming) have any time to ourselves.
4. A church-growth movement that finally shucked off the false idea that good christianity meant bad use of technology and marketing. That lead to the Megachurch making use of excellent means to get their message out.
5. A large group of people who grew up in Evangelical churches that have come to hate the politics of church and just want to be part of something bigger than themselves once a week.
6. As exemplified by one of the anonymous posters this week, a rising cynicism about the value of community, meaning those times we spend in small groups.
7. I want my MTV…and I want my worship to sound that way too. And it better be good. And there are only so many good musicians around and they tend to congregate around each other…in Megachurches!
8. People are tired of being hurt in church, and the Megachurch allows them to go to church while they are healing up. After awhile, the idea occurs to them, “why don’t I just stay here?”
There are many other factors of course. My heart tells me that most Megachurch pastors really want to glorify Jesus, really have a call of God on their hearts and have really made some impact on their communities. I also make distinction between three types of Megachurches: 1) The Developing World Megachurch which is built on small groups. These nations do devote more time to these groups, something most North Americans could never do at their present frantic rate of over-commitment. 2) The slowly built Megachurch in America. These became that way because over the years and years they exemplified superior Bible teaching and excellent principles of commitment to their community of believers and the community they found themselves in. 3) The Megachurch that formed very quickly, more as a symptom of the above factors than because they have a superior message.
The Megachurches are here to stay! That means, as I said in the two earlier postings that the smaller churches in medium to large population centers will cease to exist. I have no doubt this is true. As a result, people will come to expect less from church and may have to reach out to God on their own. Unfortunately, throughtout history, humans have been shown to be very faulty when it comes to leading themselves into truth. This is best shown in the book of Judges, where it describes what it was like having no prophets in the land: “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes”.
George Barna wrote in his book “Revolutions” that he believes Christians are already rebelling against the Megachurch by having informal meetings in pubs, dorm rooms and informal societies. While I don’t disagree that is happening, it will never reach the mainstream. These are the people who used to do the same thing, but did it in the Church. The vast majority of Christians in the days to come will simply look for the only thing they have left to them: The Megachurch. Unless something dramatic happens to change the trend that is coming, there are few other options.
What will be the secondary results? The knowledge of the Bible will steadily decrease. The idea of worship will be reduced to singing Christian Pop songs that will increasingly sound the same. The idea of intercessory prayer will once again be relegated to the “crazy ladies” that we used to relegate it to in the days after World War 2. Marriages will begin to fall apart at a rate never seen in American history.
But that is when leaders among God’s people (Prophets, Pastors and Teachers) will begin to turn to God for a better way and will listen to Him for what changes should be made. I see no other way for this to happen. There cannot be another way. Check your heart and see if the Lord is not showing you the same thing. This is when the True Emerging Church will begin to come to the forefront. I have no idea at this point what it will look like. I feel like taking these posts and putting them in a time capsule to open up in twenty years as these things are happening.