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Devotionals

The End-Times Perfect Storm of Heresy Series -- The Mega Church

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Yes Carey, someone actually wrote this because it is true. I may not agree in totality but the vast majority of mega churches compromise the Gospel and thus present a false christ who cannot actually save anyone. Read Matthew 7 and see how that turns out for the folks who are saying Lord Lord. The burnout of Perry Noble for example, clearly saved souls. If Joel Osteen got burned out and retired I cannot count the number of souls that would be saved. Now I agree that it is not logical to paint with a broad brush and say that every church with 2000 in weekly attendance must be bad. The vast majority are however and I know this by their fruit and by the bible. The Gospel divides people. Here is the foundational problem for people like Carey Nieuwhof -- they view the size of the church to determine its health. So a small church could be small because it is dead but it never occurs to him that a mega church can be huge also because it is dead. Do you think people flock to Lakewood Church because Pastor Joel preaches the Gospel? It is the opposite reason beloved. The key verse teaches us that heaven rejoices when one sinner repents -- not mega churches filled with people. Narrow is the way and those who find it are few.

"And occasionally, when small churches start to reach new people, they become mid-sized churches. And then, before you know it, some of them become larger churches. Then what? If you're against church growth, you're against the basic mission of the church: to reach people. So what happens when a church starts to grow? Do you shut the growth down? Do you get bad at what you do so you stop reaching people? Or do you keep your churches smaller on purpose and multiply (by the way, that's now called multi-site)? The logical issues alone with slamming large churches are riddled with problems. But it's even deeper than that. So here are 5 criticisms of large churches it's finally time to drop." -- Carey Nieuwhof

Let's clarify something the Nieuwhof always gets wrong. The basic mission of the church is not to reach people. Read Acts 2 and see that it is left to God to grow the body of Christ. Salvation is entirely a work of God -- He decides who and how many get saved. You are confusing people who say the 8-word prayer ands are willing to come back to serve in the parking lot ministry with people who have repented and are now saved. The issue is not the size of the church but what you did and did not do in order to achieve that size.

"1. IT'S A ONE-MAN (OR ONE-WOMAN) SHOW - I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say that a large church is a one-person show. That's because--quite naturally--most of us think of the founder or senior leader when we think of a large church (there are some large churches where that isn't the case, but they're the exception). As a rule, most large churches hardly behave like a one-man or one-woman show. There are actually teams of highly skilled leaders around the point leader. Anyone who says a large organization is a one-man show doesn't understand what's required to lead a large, complex, let alone multi-site organization. You simply HAVE to have dozens to hundreds of capable staff and thousands of capable volunteers. In reality, far more small churches are one-man or one-woman shows than large churches. It's far more likely that a small church or a mid-sized church (say 400-600) is a one-person show because it IS possible for the leader to do pretty much everything. That breaks down entirely once your church is larger than a thousand in attendance. In fact, your church will never sustainably grow to 1000 people if it's a one-person show run entirely by the leader. While the reasons for Mars Hill's collapse five years ago are complex (I talk about them in Episode 79 of my Leadership Podcast with Mars Hill insider Justin Dean), you can argue that it wasn't sustainably built because it imploded when Mark Driscoll left. But Newspring and Cross Point Churches have done very well under new leadership since their founding pastors left. For more on the encouraging story at Cross Point, you can listen to my interview with Kevin Queen and another with Cross Point's senior leadership team members Drew Powell and Matt Warren. And many other very large churches have gone through changes in leadership successfully. Southeast Christian grew significantly after its founder left and is now on the third generation of succession. Christ Fellowship in Florida is thriving after its founder left. Gene Appel handed over a very large Central Christian Church in Las Vegas to Jud Wilhite, who has led it to unprecedented growth and expansion over 15 years. People who say large churches are one-man shows don't understand large churches. Period. People who say large churches are one-man shows don't understand large churches. Period. -- Carey Nieuwhof

Yeah, no. Period. Nieuwhof is making a nuanced and silly point. No one has ever suggested that no one else works at a mega church besides the pastor. If anything, the pastor does not work enough in the Purpose Driven Paradigm because they outsource all of the pastoral functions to lower pastoral staff. That is not what we are talking about when we correctly state that mega churches are organized around the principle of a singular public speaker that has charisma and draws people in. Do you honestly think that if Joel Osteen left tomorrow that Lakewood would thrive? Is Andy Stanley's top assistant ready to take over the entire ministry? Doubt it. If Rick Warren's top Lieutenant left Saddleback do you think anyone would leave the church? What about if ole Rick decided to pursue his dominionist agenda overseas and left? The reasons for the collapse of Mars Hill are not complex. They had an arrogant ass of a leader who stole 250,000 dollars of tithes to cheat the New York Times Best Seller list. He also widely abused the very people he was supposed to lead and once bragged about blessed subtraction by referring to his victims as a pile of dead bodies he was leaving in his wake. That is really not too complex Carey. I cannot speak to the ones that survived, although I am sure the Newspring Congregants were glad to see Perry Noble shuffle off into obscurity.

"2. THE PEOPLE WHO ATTEND ARE BLIND SHEEP - First of all, if you think the people who attend large churches are all blind sheep, why don't you ask them if that's the case? After all, it's a pretty insulting accusation. If you visit most megachurches, you won't find blind sheep. You will find leaders. Actually, most often, you'll find capable leaders--independent men and women who appreciate the level of purpose, thoughtfulness and mission behind many of today's larger churches. I'm not saying leaders don't also go to small or mid-sized churches, but they also (perhaps predominantly) become engaged in large churches. Why? Well, because great leaders tend to gravitate toward churches and organizations that are well led. They want to be well-led in church because that's what they're used to in the marketplace and in life. Great leaders attract great leaders. They're used to leaders and teams of leaders who know how to make critical decisions, to advance a collective cause and who can lead and manage complex organizations. By contrast, capable leaders avoid poorly-led organizations and churches." -- Carey Nieuwhof

The arrogance is staggering. Let me break this down for you. "Leaders" are attracted to mega churches for the money. As Carey likes to say -- period. Some for the fame and notoriety but at the end of the day they are just as carnal as you or I. They may convince themselves that the larger church means more people reached for Jesus but if the salary package is underwhelming let's see how fast God "speaks to their heart" that this is not the right "season." As for the accusation, I would not say that the people at Lakewood are blind sheep because that somehow implies they are saved when they most likely are not. They are in fact blind goats. According to Romans the preaching of the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way someone gets saved and since we know Joel Osteen does not preach the Gospel, the math is simple.

"3. BIG CHURCHES DON'T PRODUCE REAL DISCIPLES - Of all the criticism, this one stings me the most personally, mainly, because it's just not true. And while I haven't led a gigantic personally, I'm founding pastor of a large church (1500) and this criticism always chased our ministry. Start with the basics. What is a disciple? Someone who has decided to trust Jesus as their Saviour. But how do you know whether they're following Jesus? Jesus actually gave us a very practical test that helps us tell. He simply said: "By their fruit you'll recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?" In other words, look at someone's life for the evidence. Knowledge, as the Apostle Paul pointed out, is not spiritual maturity. Knowledge makes you arrogant. And arrogance isn't a mark of Christian maturity. If you go to a megachurch, you will discover thousands of people whose lives look more like Jesus a few years down the road than they ever did before. You'll discover people who have placed their faith in Jesus and who are being transformed by the love of God (and you'll discover that in small and mid-sized churches too). You know who isn't being transformed by love? The critics. Think about that for a while. And maybe worry about that as well." -- Carey Nieuwhof

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