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Redux My Personal Response to the Walmart Church

August 18, 2010

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. 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, 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 have any time to ourselves.
4. A church-growth movement that finally embraced contemporary techniques of mass marketing. That lead to the Megachurch making use of effective 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. A rising cynicism about the value of community, meaning those times we spend in small groups.
7. The concert-loving public, and a desire to have worship services which sound that way too. And it better be good. Since 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 some 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 may struggle 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, throughout 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.  Marriages will begin to fall apart at a rate never seen in American history.

Let me cut in on this redux of the 2006 articles to say that, unfortunately, all that I saw in 2006 is happening. But on the tail end, I am also seeing people leave mega-churches and returning to good smaller churches that are dealing with the above-mentioned faults of the more intimate communities. I am grieving that some large churches are now down to a tenth of their former sizes, but with the same building payments. Many of these leaders are being excoriated, but we have to lay the blame at the feet of the people who attended and at the feet of the old style small churches that made commitment to a church too extreme.

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