Sunday, July 08, 2012

My Visit to a Mega-Church

I'm not often in a position to visit other churches on a Sunday morning, being a pastor and all. To be honest, I'm not even sure what the actual definition of a mega-church is, but, I'd assume that what we attended this morning was in the vein of a bona fide mega-church.

We've been "on vacation" for the better part of this week. We all needed a little time away.

We arrived for the early service, and was "greeted" by a man in an orange vest who, I assume, was supposed to  show us where to park. He waved enthusiastically to us.

We parked close to the door and walked in with several regulars, some wearing casual clothes, some looking like they just came in from the lake.  I'm not judging; just reporting.

I snapped this pic during one of the songs I didn't know.


The man who held the door open for us wished us a "good morning."  The man who handed us the printed announcement sheet also said, "hello", but the woman who handed Sally hers, was talking to someone else and didn't greet her.

We walked into the cavernous foyer, past the coffee shop and bookstore into the auditorium. I would call it a sanctuary, except that it looked and felt more like a concert theater than a sanctuary.  Looking around, I regret not stopping at the coffee shop for a grande latte, you know, to blend in with everyone else.

We watched their video presentation and waited for the countdown clock to signal the beginning of service.

I've been in church my entire life. I listen to Christian radio almost exclusively.  I did not know, nor did I recognize any music presented during their worship service.

They had, what I would call, a full concert setup.  Lights, fog, the whole shebang.  One thing I certainly DID NOT like was the rotating stage lights that shone from the stage into the eyes of the people in the audience.  Again, I couldn't tell if I was at church or at a concert.

My kids said they LOVED the worship, even though THEY didn't even know any of the songs that were sung. They loved how it made them feel like they were at a concert....

The regular pastor wasn't there, but the fill-in guy was excellent. Very clear presentation of the Gospel.  The invitation was for people to fill out a card if they made a decision and put it in the offering plate. A man behind us and a man in front of us raised their hands to indicate they had received Jesus' salvation. Neither filled out a card.

We left without ever having anyone introduce themselves, give us a personal welcome, or even have my hand shook.

We debriefed ourselves at IHOP after the service.  The kids said they liked the worship but didn't really care for how they didn't "connect" with the service, as a whole. They wished our church had a better praise and worship time and wasn't so "fancy" and looked more like a theater. 

I certainly am not opposed to what people wear to attend church, well, for the most part...  I didn't see anything objectionable this morning.  I don't like not being welcomed in a personal way; this is Oklahoma after all.

* * *

This is the first time I've attended a mega-church in a couple of years. I'm really not trying to be overly-critical of my visit. I think that leaving without having shook anyone hand was the tipping point for me. I understand the differing of opinion about music/worship/praise. I understand that not everyone does it like us. I understand that some people feel a need to be coaxed into worship. I understand that some people only want to be entertained.

I understand that a mega-church reaches a lot of people that my "more traditional church" will never reach; of course a lot of that has to do with the fact we are a small town church.  I understand that many of the people attending this church are the typical "un-churched" people and that this church is doing a fantastic job of actually connecting with these people.

This entire post is based on an hour and a half visit to a church while on vacation. I haven't named the church on purpose.  I know that many, many people love this church and it has a huge ministry in its community. I know that God is using this church for His kingdom, and when all is said and done, that is all that really matters.

8 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Mega-church: Church with average attendance of 2,000 or more.

Rick Boyne said...

Yeah, well, this is, then...

Tim Tillinghast said...

My FB friend Lance A Schmitz pastors a tiny church in OKC which he labels "the world's largest nano-church". Maybe you should go for that, Rick?

Anonymous said...

And what do any of the negatives you point out have in contradiction with the Bible? You didn't talk at all about whether the songs revolved around God or not and you didn't talk at all about whether the message effectively conveyed God's word. You purely focused on the cultural side of the church which of course will change from church to church.

They didn't shake your hand? Sorry... There were only 2000+ people there.

Now I don't really like big churches either because I feel like it takes away from what church is really supposed to be. An environment where many believers come together to encourage and push each other in their relationships with God. In that big of a church it is hard to effectively fill this purpose. However, to judge a church purely on the fact that they were impersonal when they have 2000+ people.

If they are preaching an effective message then praise God because all of those people are learning more about God.

Many conservative churches have become so wrapped up in holding tradition that they lose sight of what our true purpose as Christians is. It isn't to shake someone's hand in the morning and make sure they are personally greeted. It isn't to sing purely hymns because God condemns all other music. The purpose is that the entire church body comes and expands their understanding of God so that they can more effectively serve and be in relationship with him.

Now I have not said any of this to personally condemn you or pull you out, but just to maybe get you to see a new perspective and to figure out whether you are really seeing things through God's eyes or your eyes which are filtered by tradition and preference.

Quentin Alsip said...

I was intrigued by a pastor attending another church, almost like a coach attending another team's game to see how they do it differently, and I think it's a pretty good idea. Keeps your perspective fresh and gives you new ideas.

That being said, I did want to make a few comments, because like I said I was intrigued by this thread.

I'm a fairly critical person by nature (which I think you may be as well) but I think folks today consider critical a negative word. It's not necessarily negative. It just means we have a critical mind that breaks things down and have an opinion about everything. I didn't take your post as being "negative", per se, about this "mega-church" you attended. It was obvious a few of your opinions, or perhaps simply preferences, shown through in your synopsis...but I don't think it was overly biased.

I think there is a place for this type of church, just as much as there is a place for the small town church, as you need both (and many other types of churches) to reach the masses. God has a plan. Every person, family, community, group, etc. is different and each will seek out certain different criteria to be happy in a church.

To the person who posted that Rick's observation was focusing on the cultural side of the church...well I think that's probably the factor that differentiates one church from another the most. And since Rick was going to check out a different church for just that sort of perspective...why wouldn't he focus on it?

Let's face it...doctrines aside, assuming every church is equal in the fact that they preach the unabridged and unaltered Truth, a church's culture IS the church. It's one of the biggest reasons folks go there as opposed to the HUNDREDS of other options there are.

There are other reasons such as family, preaching styles (which is arguably still part of the culture of the church), doctrines (or denominations), but I think culture is the lion's share of it. You might like the size and "homey feel" you get (warm greetings, etc.), or you may like the worship, etc. etc. CULTURE.

I am definitely a person who is completely and utterly JADED with today's church. Unfortunately, in my opinion, at the end of the day churches end up being little more than your run of the mill social gathering. Complete with rumor mills, busy bodies, cliques, etc. There are folks who are there just to be "important" and have a place to fit in socially. There are folks who are there who want to control something. There's ALL kinds!

That isn't to say there aren't plain-ole fashioned Christians too who are focused on Christ and not on all of the other layers of the church. There are a few. My Grandmother was one of those. Unfortunately she passed away years ago...but she was a shining example of what a Christian should be (and undeniable proof of how few like her there really are these days).

You can ask 1000 Christians spanning across denominations what a church is or should be and get a plethora of answers. They will all be different...even among same denominations! It's because of what I mentioned earlier. Everyone wants something different from a church. And they must all exist to reach the largest number of people. In the end...that's the goal right?

Spread the word, bring folks to Christ, repeat.

Rick Boyne said...

Tim,

I call our church a "micro-mega-church". :)

Rick Boyne said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for reading my post and taking time to articulate a comment. Too bad you chose to remain anonymous; I might have actually responded to some of the points you raised.

Rick Boyne said...

Quentin,

Wow! Spot on!

I, too, feel that too many people think that criticism/critical automatically means negative.

I also agree that "church" isn't what it's supposed to be, in more cases than not.

Spread the word, bring folks to Christ, repeat. - I like that!