Who Do the Mega-Churches Say They Are?

Thursday, July 5th 2007
May/Jun 2000

Beginning especially with the 1995 Peter Jennings special report on religion in America and the August 1996 Atlantic Monthly cover story, "Welcome to the Next Church," seeker-driven megachurches have received a great deal of secular media attention. Perhaps most interesting about these reports has been the way these pragmatic churches-and their leaders-present themselves and their missions. Here is a sampling:

We give them what they want, and we give them what they didn't know they wanted-a life change.- Rev. Kenton Beshore Mariners Church, Newport Beach (1)

People don't work in their neighborhoods. People don't shop in their neighborhoods. People don't go to the movies in their neighborhoods. So why should anyone expect them to go to church in their neighborhoods? They'll drive right by small churches in their neighborhood to get to attend a larger one that offers more in the way of services or programs…. The sound systems are state-of-the-art; the message is relevant and well communicated. People will demand from their church all the Willow Creek stuff, and if they don't get it, they'll go to Willow Creek. It's Wal-Mart versus the corner grocery. It ain't a fair fight.- Church growth consultant Bob Buford Dallas (2)

There are two million people within a one-hour drive of this place. In business parlance, we've got two percent of market share. We've got a long way to go.- Rev. Bill Hybels Willow Creek, suburban Chicago (3)

A cross between Pearl Jam and Hootie and the Blowfish.- Rev. Chris Seay, describing the "sound" of his praise band University Church, Waco (4)

I think we've got to redefine church. There are a whole lot of people out there with a major failure in their lives-and they never find themselves acceptable to church again. They're spiritually hungry, but they feel like second-class citizens.- Rev. Randy Frazee Pantego Bible Church, Arlington, Texas (5)

I'm convinced you can be a Christian on either side of those issues [abortion and homosexuality]. One of the tragedies of the culture is the tendency to draw lines where they needn't be drawn. Christians ought to quit throwing rocks at Christians. We don't have to agree on everything. And these are side issues. What we're about is spiritual renewal.- Rev. Michael Foss Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, suburban Minneapolis (6)

Denominations as we know them are a historical anomaly. The very large churches are becoming the new dioceses-and they don't take a big cut of your income to do it.- An anonymous midwestern Episcopal rector (7)

The fact is, these large churches have more in common with each other than with other churches in their denominations.- Church growth consultant Bob Buford Dallas (8)

While the New Testament speaks often about churches, it is surprisingly silent about many matters that we associate with church structure and life. There is no mention of architecture, pulpits, lengths of typical sermons, rules for having a Sunday school. Little is said about style of music, order of worship, or times of church gatherings. There were no Bibles, denominations, camps, pastors' conferences, or board meeting minutes. Those who strive to be New Testament churches must seek to live its principles and absolutes, not reproduce the details.- Rev. Leith Anderson Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, Minnesota (9)

To reach non-Christian populations, it is necessary for a church to become culturally indigenous to its "mission field."- Church growth expert George Hunter (10)

It would be nave to say that there isn't a business side to Willow Creek. Many of the problems we face are identical [to those faced by corporations]. But we're not about moving dollars. We're about transforming lives.- Rev. Bill Hybels Willow Creek, suburban Chicago (11)

1 [ Back ] Cited in Charles Trueheart, "Welcome to the Next Church," Atlantic Monthly, August 1996, 40.
2 [ Back ] Ibid., 47.
3 [ Back ] Ibid., 53.
4 [ Back ] Ibid., 50.
5 [ Back ] Ibid., 52.
6 [ Back ] Ibid., 52.
7 [ Back ] Ibid., 57.
8 [ Back ] Ibid., 58.
9 [ Back ] Ibid., 43-44.
10 [ Back ] Ibid., 43.
11 [ Back ] Richard Todd, "Not Your Father's Church," Civilization, April/May 1999, 46.
Thursday, July 5th 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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