Last week, NorthPoint young adult pastor Sammy Adebiyi wrote an article that was published on ChurchLeaders.com which offended some people. In fairness, he was very gracious as comments flowed in pointing out the many flaws in his post. In radio, I’d call this post “shock jock material.” He called a bunch of people names in the headlines of the post and then quickly backed off when the nasty calls for his head came in. (A legit engagement strategy if you ask me.)
If his post had merely been confessional about why HE used to make fun of megachurches before he worked at one, I could have read the post, shared a laugh, and moved along. Instead, he used inclusive language… “WE“… to make it seem like he represented all small church voices.
Here’s Sammy’s list of reasons for why he used to make fun of megachurches:
- We don’t know you
- We are sitting on the sidelines
- We are jealous
- We are hypocrites
- We are arrogant
I completely agree with point #1. It is easy to make fun of people you don’t know. I’ve spent most of my life in smallish churches, places with fewer than 500 people. In my mind, people who worked at monster American churches were unknown to me and unknowable. What I found in getting to know a pile of these folks, including ones who work at Sammy’s church, is that they are essentially the same types of people who work in small churches. They work hard, love their work, love the people in their ministry, have problems, have doubts, etc. But at the end of the day I don’t find many differences between a megachurch middle school pastor and an associate at a small PCUSA church who oversees birth-college ministries. People are people.
Maybe I’m just sensitive? But it sure felt like the next 4 points were Sammy exhibiting that he doesn’t really know many people who go to or work at small churches. I read those and thought… “Actually, I don’t know anyone who thinks this way!” In fact, by the time I was done reading his points I actually hurt for the hard-working, God-honoring, Jesus loving brothers and sisters I know who give their lives to their ministries.
But I’m willing to put that all that aside. I’m not really mad at Sammy for saying what he said. Again, had he written the same thing from his perspective instead of “we” than all would have been easily forgotten.
The real shame here is that Sammy’s post wasted a perfectly good blog title without having any fun! I mean, there really are good things worth poking fun at, tongue-in-cheek-style.
So I made a little list, which I’m sure will get me in trouble, but why not?
So, why do I make fun of people who think their megachurch is the reason a cat meows?
- You think 20,000 people is big and makes you a big deal. I mean seriously– 35,000 people go to Qualcomm Stadium on a Saturday to watch no-name San Diego State football. 20,000 is a decent crowd for an NBA game. Compared to the relative population of our country, none of us are that big of a deal.
- You think it’s cool to have a lion in your services. No seriously, a church in Texas had a live lion and lamb in a recent sermon series. It’s stuff like this that makes me shake my head. Yeah, you have too many resources for your preaching when you think… “You know what would make that illustration better? Let’s bring a flipping lion right into the building!” Jesus could have done this easily– but he choose to cast out demons and heal people instead. Just sayin’.
- You think it’s OK to have a security detail, personal assistants, and “people.” The Washington Post ran a story yesterday joking about Newt Gingrich’s Secret Service detail. The candidates campaign is so derailed that he had to take the train from Washington D.C. to New York for an event yet he still has 4 Secret Service agents watching him 24 hours per day. Jesus didn’t walk around with a group of homies watching his back and running his schedule. In fact, I seem to remember him rebuking a disciple for cutting a dude’s ear off in the Garden. If you need people, my assumption is that you might need to spend more time with your people. But I am probably wrong in that assumption.
- You think Jesus’ idea of multiplication was a bigger building or a helicopter to get from one campus to another. I’ve had 4-5 conversations with church staff about the lengths their teaching pastor goes through to speak at multiple campuses on a Sunday morning. I know of 2 churches who employ a helicopter for this purpose. A helicopter. Paul only left Timothy in Ephesus because his chopper was in the shop. (Not naming names intentionally on this one.)
- You think you created a big organization. My observation is that most of these big churches don’t really know how they grew from a staff of 5 to 50 to 250 or from 200 people to 15,000 people. It kind of happened gradually and because you knowingly or unknowingly made a whole lot of great decisions. It just cracks me up how fast they think they’ve invented an organizational or reporting structure or decision-making processes. In reality, it’s the same thing that happened to every major denomination and non-profit organization.
All jokes aside, in a post-modern, post-Christian society– it’s going to take all types of churches to make a significant impact. Sure, we can poke fun at one another and have a good time with that. But in the end, we’re all on the same team. The bottom line is we need more churches and all kinds of them. Big ones, little ones, crazy ones, practical ones, missional one, unintentional ones, house ones, prison ones, neighborhood ones, institutional ones… and a whole bunch of churches who don’t call themselves churches!