Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why Keep On Preaching if You Aren't a Mega-Church Pastor?


Why am I preaching when there are SO many better preachers on the internet? Can you name the one pictured here? If you go to his mega-church, how is he as a pastor?

I'm in Atlanta, land of 100 mega-churches. Why DON'T we all just give up and download Andy? Or go to a satellite location? (Or any one of the other 99 mega-pastors?) Why should I keep on preaching?

Here's Why:

I think Andy is wrong and a young pastor friend is right on.

My buddy out preaches most preachers. But has a problem Andy doesn't. He's bright, insightful, great connection with his people. He started a church about 15 months ago and now has 'too many people.'

Why would ANY preacher say THAT?!
Because he believes that a preacher is supposed to actually pastor and evangelize, care for and train up the people to whom he preaches.

He doesn't want to be a mega-pastor. He wants to reach all the people in his parish in Atlanta - and plant more churches with real actual pastors who preach, evangelize, care for and train their flock until the whole city is filled up with local pastors locally ministering locally training and living with people until everyone loves Jesus.

I'm with this guy. You can keep your two-dimensional relationship with a screen.

I want to be one of 1000s of pastors who preach and love the people into the Kingdom of Christ - all over Atlanta - face-to-face until JESUS is the most famous preacher in Atlanta.

- 10 churches of 100 people will reach more people with the gospel than one church of 1000.

13 comments:

David and Red said...

Preach on! =0) I'm glad you're not a mega pastor - it's wonderful to know that we can call on you and you'll be there...

Kevin said...

Well said Jim. I'm a firm believer that we have to get smaller to grow bigger. Being the church a.k.a. Body of Christ is about community, relationship and connectedness.

I never understood how one man could expect to relate to thousands of people whom they do not connect with on a regular basis.

Chuck Anderson said...

But Jim, what would that do to all of the capital campaigns out there? And the consultants who depend on them for their livelihood? And the construction companies, etc...don't you care about the hard economy we're in right now?!?

Actually I SO wish most of these big churches (and a lot of the medium-sized ones as well) would invest in downsizing on the local level. Some (many, perhaps?) are being forced into it because donations are down. Wouldn't it be great to have a bunch of unemployed church staffers who are desperate for work finding their new places in small local bodies who support themselves organically? Maybe God does know what He's doing...

Anonymous said...

Why does it matter what size church you have or how much pastoring you actually do? Shoud it not all be about reaching people for Christ? It seems to ths observer that you are trying to gauge your own effectiveness through self imposed humility. Evey church can bu used no matter how big or small.

imspeakingtruth said...

Actually, Anonymous, the size of a church generally becomes an issue because most mega's seek to satisfy the flesh and cater to man-worship so that they can crow about "how effective we are for the Kingdom". The said reality is that even though many mega's look effective from the outside, they're simply beautiful stadiums that host large stage shows several times a week. The average storefront church is more effective in their communities because the pastor can actually touch the congregation and tend to their spiritual and physical needs, as opposed to being able to brag about "how God has allowed us to grow exponentially". Also, (again, generally), the larger the congregation grows, the likelihood that the pastor begins to believe his own "press", and surrounds himself with people who agree with him and extole his greatness on a regular basis. Before you know it, the mega pastor has someone carrying his bible, and he's living in a million-dollar mansion while the sheep starve.

God doesn't care about the size of any church (large or small), He is looking for the fruit of repentance and salvation in our lives. Unfortunately, that is becoming less and less of a priority in the American mega "Church, Inc." business model.

Anonymous said...

Imspeakingtruth,
I am glad that you are so knowledgeable about how bad big churches are. The point is that a church should be focused on God, and if by doing that they grow, what is the problem? You are stereotyping every big church and calling them ineffective. I have attended mega churches and small churches. Yes, the tendency of a mega church is not to focus on everyone. No one knows you are there, so if you leave then who notices? However, I attended a small church (100-200) that we were involved in, and when we stopped going not even a call from anyone on staff. We were involved and joined the community. Where was that pastor? I guess he was just ineffective as the mega church pastor.

The intent is that if a church is truly focused on God and reaching the lost, then how can you bash them or dismiss their effectiveness just because they are growing? Maybe that is a sign that God is blessing.

Once again, I have a problem with pastors bashing or calling other pastors ineffective. Can't only God judge that? If the pastor does start as you say "believe his own press", is that not up to God to deal with? Why do we have to try and be the judge and jury? Last time I checked my Bible, that is only God's job.

Pastor Jim said...

Red - You rock. Glad to be your broken pastor.

Kev - 'Grow smaller to grow bigger' is biblical. My pastor buddy says, 'Ice cubes cool your drink faster than one large chunck of ice. We need more surface area for contact with our city.'
That's what I'm talking about.

Chuck - Not sure I want church staffers to lose jobs, but I see where you are going. More people in the streets with the lost is a better thing than lots of staff in a massive building taking care of sheep.

IST - Wondered when I'd blog something to pique your interest! An honor to have you jump in here!
Your experience has definitely given you some insight into mega churches that is VALID!

Looking effective from the outside sounds alot like 'White Washed Tombs' so Lord save me from that - even in a young or medium sized church.

Thanks for the comment Anonymous.
I see your point and actually held that position for a decade. But there are several problems with that line of thinking.

You said, "The point is that a church should be focused on God, and if by doing that they grow, what is the problem?"

Growing in and of itself not the problem (I'm all for it), what a church does as it grows is the problem. God designed churches to multiply, to plant more churches, not just get a bigger footprint, staff and corporate culture.

Case in point: The 1st Jerusalem church grew so big that God sent persecution to spread out His people.

You said, "I have attended mega churches and small churches. Yes, the tendency of a mega church is not to focus on everyone. No one knows you are there, so if you leave then who notices? However, I attended a small church (100-200) that we were involved in, and when we stopped going not even a call from anyone on staff. We were involved and joined the community. Where was that pastor? I guess he was just ineffective as the mega church pastor."

I am sorry that you had this experience with a smaller church. No church or pastor is perfect - especially me. I blow it all the time.

However, you stated that a mega-church has a higher percentage opportunity to be ineffective at discipling you. You supported my point.

You said also, 'Once again, I have a problem with pastors bashing or calling other pastors ineffective. Can't only God judge that? If the pastor does start as you say "believe his own press", is that not up to God to deal with? Why do we have to try and be the judge and jury? Last time I checked my Bible, that is only God's job.'

Yes, that is God's job, but it is also the job of pastors to call each other to examine their hearts and practices. No pastor should be left to judge only himself. Pastors need other pastors to check them. I have over 30 pastors that keep me accountable - because I need it.

God has established the church and given pastors responsiblity to care and shepherd the church's doctrine and practice - including questioning the biblical veracity of practices such as 'mega-churches.'

Anonymous said...

Pastor Jim,
I apprecite your opinions and thoughts on this discussion. I agree with you on a lot but from your original post, you seemed to bash mega churches regardless of their influence. I know of one mega church that planted over 1500 churches last year alone. They also have some major ministry programs that a small church could only dream of due to finances.

There are problems in both types and we need both types. Some people would not be able to attend a small church because they feel like they would stick out yet others need that.

I guess the last comment I have is for when you said that pastors are called to keep each other accountable. My question, have you personally called or contacted these mega church pastors and told them your view or opinion and tried to keep them accountable? I think it is great that pastors support each other like that. But if you have not tried to keep these pastors accountable, then you are judging based on your post.

imspeakingtruth said...

Anonymous,

I have a personal bias, and although I try my best to remain objective, I've seen (and participated in) too much to ignore what I know to be the case in many mega's.

Like Pastor Jim said - the goal is to grow and plant seeds throughout a community or nation so that those seeds grow and spread the Gospel, and so on. Many of the mega's want to grow in one location (thus the need for arenas) or they want to plant other arenas to show their influence "for the kingdom".

Many of the mega's grow by taking members from other churches - and NOT by evangelizing the Gospel to the unsaved. As I said, I'm not anti-mega church, per se. God can and does move in any congregation as He wills, no matter the size. It just gets to the point where many mega pastors forget about the move of God and begin to attribute growth (and influence) to the move of their ministries.

You're right - God is the ultimate judge, and He calls us to judge as well (1 Cor.6:2-3; Proverbs 3:21; John 7:24; Jeremiah 22:3; Philippians 1:7, 10). Fruit is fruit - and bad fruit can come from a small church just as easily as it can from a mega. But we must use the fruit as an indication as to the root of the tree from which it came.

Oh, and I've been lurking for quite some time, Pastor Jim. I'm usually worn out from the "spirited discussions" over at my corner of the world to leave any sage comments here...this one just struck close to home.

Pastor Jim said...

Anon -
Yes, I am making judgments based on what I know.
Your comment about holding mega-church pastors accountable is a good notion, but naive. Mega-church pastors, in most cases, choose their own accountability (which is a major issue!) and I am not privy to their circle.

I will say this publicly: Randy Pope at Perimeter Church has an open door for accountability from men outside his mega-church. I find him to be the exception.

If you would like to read more harrowing stories about the lack of accountability, read I'm Speaking Truth's blog by that name. It will make you shudder.

ST, I love the way you keep the Word handy in your posts. God bless you in your diligence. Be encouraged. You are in my prayers for your 'spirited corner' of the blogosphere!

Shannon Lewis said...

I hate to say this, 'cause I love you, and I love your church, AND I'm no "NorthPoint" cheerleader, that's for sure, BUT, I think you are wrong. In part, I think it's because you misunderstand the structure at NorthPoint. Andy is merely the "teaching pastor", and in any "Mega-Church" the main pastor only has hands-on pastoral duties towards those in his immediate care: his staff and the elders/deacons of the church, or those filling similar roles. Among those staff are others who pastor the 'congregations' which they are over, be they satellite churches, or segments of satellite churches, or a certain 'people-grouping' within the primary church body. For instance, I know of one mega-church that has 70+ pastors who actually pastor the congregation, each serving a different segment of the churches population. As counsellor, mentors, disciplers, and such, they are the public face of 'pastor' for those members, and Andy is just the dude that teaches on Sunday, a message that is usually later discussed in a homegroup setting, and brought home by the actual pastor over each member in various ways. That's just to say, either method and structure CAN work, and either CAN also fail to bring about what the Biblical church is called to do and to be. And neither has to fail.

Shannon Lewis said...

p.s. - I speak as one who has 8 years in a 100+ PCA church in Athens, GA, and now 6 years in a 2000 member non-denominational (though w/ reformed leanings) church on St. Simons Island, GA... both had an immense impact, and I'm seeing lives changed for Christ in both environments.

Pastor Jim said...

Shannon,
I do understand the structure at NP and other megas. I have friends and former youth group members on staff there. I also read and hear of the abuses within many others.

I'm asking a more penetrating question. Is separating preaching from pastoring just a matter of structure or growth or a cultural cave-in? I'm questioning the nature of the call into pastoral ministry.

Ministers are called to preach the Word of God and administer the sacraments. Are we strengthening or weakening the church by separating those pastoral roles into specialist duties?

Does Scripture support the mega-church model that you so aptly described? Where?

I worked as a Jr Hi pastor to hundreds of kids at a mega-church near NP for a decade. And I loved it! I was their pastor in a way. These are sincere questions not merely picking on Andy or megas, but that have far reaching impact for the health of the Church in the US.

Are we aware of the abuses and inherent weaknesses of this modern model?

Is segmenting and satelliting into pockets within a mega - even at a church so many love - crippling the growth of the body? (not just individuals who attend that mega, but the Bride of Christ)

Is what you called 'actually pastoring' actual pastoring in the biblical sense if there is no preaching of the Word?

20 years ago I was not asking these questions, but as I grow older and read Scripture and church history more, I don't see where megas are the norm.

However I am thrilled to see young pastors like my friend in Atlanta Westside work hard to multiply pastors to reach the city. That looks a lot like the work of the apostles!

Good to hear lives are being changed on SSI! Hope to visit sometime.

Graced