Although they have been around for 40 years or more in Australia, the phenomenon of the megachurch is rapidly expanding and gaining popularity.
Not only the capital cities have them nowadays, but every regional city and even smaller towns have jumped on the bandwagon, based on the observed ‘success’ of the home-grown variety – Hillsong, Sydney.
This week I am examining a few aspects of these megachurches, their leadership, their membership, their money-based theologies, their multi-campus organisation and their pathetic little ‘look-alikes’ – smaller Churches which have adopted the methods and features of their trend-setting big cousins.
And yes, horror of horrors, I am criticising them! But I intend to criticise them on the basis of Biblical revelation, so if you don’t like it, just be like the Bereans and study the Word to see if I am telling you the truth.
And my intention is to warn you against falling into their clutches. You will end up deceived, hooked or trapped just as the cults do with their members.
If you are already in one, please consider your actions and motives.
Most megachurches and their ‘wannabee look-alikes’ are run by husband and wife pastor teams. Where ever in the New Testament did they find that idea? Not in 1 Tim 2.
In the nearly 2000 years of Christianity this has never been contemplated because of Paul’s clear instructions to Titus, Timothy, the Corinthians, and in other parts of the NT, now being disobeyed.
It’s clearly not a cultural choice by Paul, but a matter of sticking to the standard laid down according to God’s plan for the pattern of spiritual authority of men and women deriving from the creation and the fall.
Just about every website you visit will show a smiling photo of a seemingly happily married charming couple, posing as the spiritual leaders of such-and-such a Church, indistinguishable from others by its generic name such as ‘Life Way’, ‘Garden City’, or ‘Planet Shakers’ [what 15-year-old came up with that name?]
According to the Bible, Churches are supposed to be headed by a plurality of God-fearing men, not by one man and his wife.
In the NT Church each congregation was led by several elders, never by one person singly, or by women. The obvious reason is that just one or two closely related people can lead a Church astray when they are not directly responsible to God and the people.
Such leadership can often lead to authoritarianism – I have seen it happen several times.
Their Money-Based Theology
Most megachurches, not all, either strongly promote Word-Faith Prosperity teachings, or at least make little or no attempt to disguise their emphasis on money.
After all, big Churches run a big budget because they have multiple employees, and this means they need a guaranteed income to support everyone and their many programs. So the members have to give often and unstintingly [nothing wrong with that] or the concept of the un-Christian tithe COMPELS people to give in contravention of New Testament teaching.
Don’t be fooled – wherever there is a megachurch or its smaller clone there will always be a large budget and a debt, for a new building [to the glory of God supposedly] and new drapes, carpets, pulpit and pews of course. True joyful giving by the congregation will often be stifled as there are few resources left to do the really important task of evangelising the community.
And don’t try to tell me that evangelistic outreach can be done without actually proclaiming the historic gospel. I know this will upset a few people, but I must tell you as I see it from the Scriptures.
Their Memberships and Multi-Campuses
I don’t have any stats for Australia, but just from looking around I can see several types of people attending megachurches:
1. The ignorant or easily-led and excitable.
2. Those who wish to hide in a large crowd.
3. Those sincere Christians who are trying to obey their Master.
4. Disaffected people who have left other Churches.
5. The ubiquitous power-seeking leaders in many of them.
You may know of other groups, and some overlap but in fact, not many of them really take seriously the severe warnings Jesus gave to the 7 Churches in Revelation 2 & 3 about godly living.
The influence [read: finances] of a megachurch can be extended by opening franchises or campuses in other towns or suburbs, and many have now done that, thinking that by spreading themselves from the top down they will improve on the Holy Spirit’s time-honoured practice of Church planting from the ground up.
As Jesus said: ‘By their fruits you shall know them’ [Matt 7:16]. Just do a bit of investigation!
Their Smaller Cousins
Lots of smaller Churches have thought they have to get on the bandwagon so they can get bigger, more relevant and influence the community greater.
This would be good if it involved preaching the gospel in and out of season and the leaders and members living consistent Christian lives so that God receives the glory due to Him.
But many small Churches, hoping to grow bigger, are often watering down the gospel stand of old and trying to compete with the world to draw people in.
Gone is the thought of trying to follow in Jesus’ footsteps where He said:
‘Blessed are you when people insult you …because of Me.’ [Matt 5:11].
And as John Bunyan found, most persecution comes from INSIDE the Church. Do you find that?