Why Mega-Churches Are Wrong
The bigger the number the better. This is the unsung motto of the denominations today. Churches today would leave the impression with their gargantuan assemblies that Jesus said, “Broad is the gate and easy is the way that leads to life, and there are many who go in by it!” But wait, Jesus said, “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” (Matt. 7:14). Jesus would further proclaim, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword,” (Matt. 10:34) indicating that the way is indeed rigorous. This type of teaching would lead to many of his disciples forsaking Him in John 6:66. This is not the portrayal in the modern mega-church era.
Mega-churches are by definition, churches with more than 2,000 people in attendance on an average weekly basis (Bird, 2012). Warren Bird cites the earliest known church to have more than 2,000 members and sustain that number through the 21st century as the Moody Church of Chicago (2012). Subsequently modern community churches like Life Church may not equal 2,000 in weekly attendance (or maybe they do) but when a police officer is required to safely direct the traffic into and out of the church…the church is too big. This truth can be understood from reading 1 Thessalonians 2.
1 Thessalonians is a very intimate epistle by Paul to a young church. Perhaps no other epistle by Paul is more positive and uplifting besides the book of Philippians. The church had not been established long, as can be logically deduced from reading the epistle in conjunction with the history of the Thessalonian conversion in Acts 17. Although Paul was only with these brethren and sisters for a short time before being driven out of town by the unbelieving Jews, he says this,
“We (Paul, Silas, and Timothy) were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us…as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children,” (1 Thess. 2:7-11).
Paul, Silas, and Timothy’s relationship with these brethren was as personal and intimate as a mother’s care for her children and a father’s love for his children. No greater bond of love can be found than the two used in illustration by Paul. This is how well Paul knew these brethren on an individual basis. Certainly he could not have said these words had the church been 2,000 in attendance every week, even if he had stayed in Thessalonica for years on end. These verses exemplify the Christian unity and closeness required of every congregation.
This bond of unity is impossible when there are so many people in attendance that one cannot remember the names of people, let alone actually know the people. Bigger numbers do not equate to a better church. This is only one of many reasons that mega-churches fail to meet the New Testament church example.
Bird, Warren. (2012). World’s first megachurch? Leadership Network. Retrieved from http://leadnet.org/worlds_first_megachurch/
“Some Having Swerved”
I Timothy 1:5-8
Both of Paul’s epistles to young Timothy teach a great deal about basic truths that Timothy needed to learn in order to become a successful servant for Jesus Christ. These truths are plainly seen in the first chapter of the first letter to Timothy. The apostle wastes no time in telling Timothy why he left him at Ephesus. This journey refers to one of Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts where Paul went to Ephesus, accompanied by Timothy, but departed to Macedonia shortly after arriving at Ephesus. Verses 3-4 point out the reason for their separation. Paul instructed Timothy to ensure the teaching of the gospel was for the use of edifying because several law lovers had deceived some of the new congregational teachers at Ephesus by binding fables and “endless” genealogies as New Testament truths. These were not for the use of edifying, but rather to promote pointless question asking that caused many to veer from the truth! Timothy had to stop the spread of this false doctrine, or the church at Ephesus would fall into apostasy! Listen to Paul’s words on how such error is combated. He says, “the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned;” For the Christian, that is the basics of Christian living. Thayer even says that the word “commandment” mentioned in verse 5 refers to right living! How do you refute false doctrine? How do you destroy scorners of church members? How do you combat evil? Your actions must bespeak your name—Christian. We have to live righteously. This is done through charity (love) out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. But then Paul says, “from which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling.” It is apparent that some of the members at Ephesus had erred from the truth that edifies and turned unto “vain jangling” which is defined as “empty chatter.” It is interesting that the Greek word astocheo is translated “swerved” in this verse. In the English, this word means “to deviate from; miss the mark.” Yet this same Greek word is found in two other passages, both in the epistles to Timothy. But in the other two verses, the English word translated is “erred.” They all mean the same thing, but this is noteworthy because the verb “swerved” is a good way to describe some Christians today. They believe the truth and obey it, but somewhere along the way, an abrupt right turn is taken, and they have veered far from the straight and narrow.
Over the years, many have deviated from the divine Word in an effort to justify their own personal beliefs and life styles! That’s what these law lovers were doing. They muddied the waters surrounding what had to be obeyed, and what had been fulfilled; the result was the swerving of members from the truth because the law lovers were clinging to their Jewish heritage out of pride. Today, it’s the same thing! Some have swerved because of their pride. Yet God does not justify swerving. He gives us three principles to practice in verse 5 to prevent swerving and pride. Time will not permit discussion of those three principles, but charity out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned is God’s solution to swerving. May we all seek after these things, so we do not miss the mark.