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Dear Megachurch: Adam’s list…

Part 1

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:

  1. We don’t know you
  2. We are sitting on the sidelines
  3. We are jealous
  4. We are hypocrites
  5. 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.

Part 2

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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’.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.

Part 3

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!

11 Responses to Dear Megachurch: Adam’s list…

  1. Sara Evanchick April 24, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    So much truth here. I hate to admit how quickly I have been drawn to mega churches with their music and lights and big children’s programs with trained staff members and safety procedures. Now I sit here with no car, and all I want is a loving church within walking distance.

    • Sara Evanchick April 24, 2012 at 7:48 am #

      Not that there’s anything wrong with trained staff and safety procedures!! I still highly value and appreciate those things!!  :)

      • Adam McLane April 24, 2012 at 7:50 am #

        Totally hear you. I love the church we go to. But I’m really sad to see the 2 churches right in my neighborhood struggle. Actually, one of them is closed. :(

  2. Marv Nelson April 24, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    Great stuff Adam.  Point number one definitely helps us keep things in perspective. Also, the waste of resources on live animals…how much does that church give to missions, the poor or the oppressed? if the “sermon budget” is larger, woe to them.  Seriously though, great stuff

    • Adam McLane April 24, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      I’m not here to judge them for the decisions they make. It just makes me shake my head. Like, was that the only way to illustrate that?!?

  3. Jason Roth April 24, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    Unfortunately I know too many people who think the things Sammy pointed out. I can remember sitting in a meeting and a group of leaders from a church was angrily complaining that the mega church in the area was “stealing” all the young people from their community not their church their community. My thoughts were “You are mad they are reaching kids you weren’t, would you rather they not know God at all?” 

  4. Mookie April 24, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Great stuff Adam!  Couldn’t agree more!

  5. Daniel Griswold April 24, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Being in a medium church size, having grown up in a small church, and having worked at two “mega” churches in the past, I see all sides on this.  I’ve gone through all these emotions and thoughts.  In the end I always come back to the remembrance that God is doing something everywhere in every context.  I often just walk in and God opens my mind and heart to what has already been happening.  God makes community and growth comes from the Spirit of God.  All this makes me more excited.  I love our local Youth Ministry Network that has YM’s from all different sized churches.  We all resource each other, and we all have lessons to teach each other.  In our current context, churches need more togetherness, unity and love for one another.  

    • Adam McLane April 24, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

      Totally exciting stuff, Daniel. It can totally happen. Mutual respect is key. 

  6. @mrmarkmcdonald April 24, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Is 500 “smallish”? In post Christian Australia, small churches are between 50-100 people. In my area some churches are called “big” when they get to 500.

    • Adam McLane April 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

      I’m sure smarter people have real categories, but here’s how I would categorize things. 

      1 – 250: Small
      251 – 750: Medium
      751 – 1500: Large
      1501 – 3000: Minimega
      3000 – 10000: Mega
      10k+: A small village!

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