Friday, January 4, 2013

What I learned in Church: Part III, the Seeker-Driven Mega Church

Right before we got married in 2001, my wife gave her life over to Jesus Christ, unbeknownst to me. She had been reading her Bible in private, while hiding in her closet because she wasn't going to give me the satisfaction of knowing that she might actually be interested in Jesus or His Word.

When we got back from our Honeymoon, we were baptized together. Someone had invited us to a church of about 1200 attenders that was supposed to be energetic and modern (at least compared to the standard traditional church of our upbringing). At the time, we were simply blown away by it all.

They played movie clips in church. Sang songs with a more modern upbeat twist. The preaching was easy to understand, entertaining, and stylized. And it was loud. The congregation was very mixed both in age, class, and race. And everyone seemed pretty enthusiastic about being there each week. You had to arrive early just to find a parking space nearby, and also arrive early just to find a place to sit in the congregation.

We plugged in almost immediately: helping with the parking chaos, helping with the youth group, helping build a singles ministry, connecting with other young, married couples that we could easily call peers. In every way, we fully devoted ourselves to the forward motion. In the time that we were there, the attendance grew from 1200 to more than 5000. Ironically, the church actually "outgrew" us, or we "outgrew" the church. But, nonetheless, somewhere along the way we actually managed to disconnect from the church that had basically lit our fire for the idea of church to begin with. We still have strong friendships with the people but the act of actually worshiping in this environment got lost in translation over the years.

What I learned from the Seeker-Driven Mega Church:

1. Bigger is not always better. It is louder (which is cool), but it is also a lot more complicated and impersonal. The budgets are bigger - way bigger. The crowds are bigger. You can have your choice of 8 different services, which is great for flexibility - and you might not ever see the same people at those services (a relational bummer).

2. A church like this was at least temporarily necessary for us - to show that church can be modern, and relevant. The church doesn't have to be steeped in tradition and history. Change can be a good thing. Evolution can be a good thing.

3. The most important people in the church aren't always the "people in the church", sometimes they are the people who are not in church at all. As a matter of fact, like the lost sheep, they probably aren't in the church. Unfortunately, the seeker driven mega church expects them to come to the church like a magnet. And when they do show up, there's no guarantee that they won't just "consume" the service that is offered to them and then go home. These aren't shortcomings of a mega church, but rather challenges that must be met.


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