In a recent survey titled “What Americans Really Believe” by Dr. Rodney Stark (Baylor University Press, 2008) he concluded that ‘Megachurches are more than a mile wide and an inch deep’.
The survey found that “Even with congregations of more than 1,000 members, the Baylor Religion Survey found that megachurches surprisingly are more intimate communities than small congregations of less than 100 members. Megachurch growth is mostly due to their members, who tend to witness to their friends, bringing them into the group, and witness to strangers, much more often than members of small churches”
“When compared to small congregations, the survey found that megachurch members display a higher level of personal commitment by attending services and a Bible study group and tithing. These people are as interested in evil and sin as anybody in any of the churches. Their levels of satisfaction are high, their volunteerism in community service is very high and their outreach efforts are absolutely phenomenal.”
“I’ve heard stories when you go to some of the megachurches that you have to get tickets and parking like it’s a football game,” said Dr. Carson Mencken, professor of sociology at Baylor. “You go to a football game, you sit next to people you don’t know very well, and so I figured that’s exactly what megachurches are going to be like. The survey reveals the megachurches are not like that at all. These people do know each other, and they’re networked into the church through their friends and friends of friends.”
This survey is interesting in light of the predictions that Mark Driscoll argued about the emerging generations in his book “Confessions of a Reformission Rev.”;
“Emerging and missional churches will include more mega-churches than ever, and they will be both attractional and missional in the philosophy of ministry. If a church is truly missional, it may become a mega-church for three reasons: (1) the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful and effective, (2) a truly outward-focused missional church will experience conversion growth, and (3) a truly missional church has such a burning desire for cultural transformation that it must grow large enough to serve a whole city.”
“Emerging generations indeed feel more comfortable in larger churches. This information runs contrary to much of the popular teaching today, which asserts that the future of the church will be house churches and smaller church communities. I believe that the megachurch phenomenon is not over but just beginning, that the ‘experts’ are simply wrong, and that the future trend will be toward the extremes of very small and very large churches.” (Pages 30-31)
With all that said, I have one question…where do these finding’s fit in the overall discussion of Biblical Ecclesiology? I think Dr. John Hammett has made some good suggestions in his book “Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches” on his concerns with the ‘changing landscape’ of the church.
2 thoughts on “The Megachurch and Emerging Generations”
I believe the Mega church can remain strong. Mega churches that have small group ministries (Sunday school or cell groups) are poised to meet the needs of postmodern thinkers. These small groups can be communities reaching other communities. They can provide the connection and belonging that people are looking for. Mega churches must be intentional in their use of these small groups and encourage the groups to be interactive in other communities where they are involved. These other communities can be any group they are associated with. Communities like; work, school, neighborhoods, clubs, associations, societies, etc.
I agree. It seems that most mega church members operate by the model “get them to our big gathering- then we can filter them into our smaller groups” (Sunday School/Bible Fellowship or Cell Groups).
I would argue for a reversed model. Get people into a small group’s first.. (Cell Group or Community Group…meeting in the church, neighborhood, work settings, club houses…and so on.)
Yet, I realize that no one model works. I think we need to rethink the way mega church operates when it comes to ‘building community’.