In defense of small churches

Most churches throughout history and throughout the world have been small.  Today more than one billion Christians worship in small congregations.  Christianity Today author Karl Vaters has written a series of five blog posts on the subject “The Astonishing Power of Small Churches,” urging that contemporary Christians move away from the megachurch ideal and realize the unique value of small congregations.

Get started reading the first post after the jump, then follow the link for the other four.

[Read more…]

Evangelical Catholics

Donald Trump’s running mate Mike Pence describes himself as an “evangelical Catholic.”  By which he means that he is a Catholic who attends an evangelical megachurch.  There are quite a few of those, including another presidential candidate, Marco Rubio.  (Megachurches don’t make such a big deal about “membership,” unlike other Protestant churches, so it would be easier to maintain both identities with the megachurch model.)

Catholic apologist George Weigel has called for an “evangelical Catholicism,” by which he means Catholics evangelizing non-Christians.

Political pundits are using the term to group together conservative Catholics who agree with evangelicals on moral and social issues.

But, historically, the term refers to LUTHERANS.  Read the two articles excerpted and linked to after the jump. [Read more…]

Unintended consequences of megachurches

The larger the group, the less the individual involvement.  That’s a long-established finding of social science.  So what does that mean for very large churches?  New research has shown that those who attend megachurches are less involved in their congregation than those who attend smaller churches.  That may be obvious, but the researcher then raises a disturbing question:  Has the rise of the megachurch thus contributed to the overall decline of religion in the United States?

I am not attacking big churches.  It’s natural for a congregation to want to become as big as possible, and many large congregations are quite orthodox.  But churches need to face up to this data.  Are there other unintended consequences of megachurches?  Is there a way to counter them?  How might a big congregation increase individual involvement?  Or should big churches split into smaller congregations, once they reach a particular size?

[Read more…]

How megachurches are doing

Megachurches continue to attract big numbers, but, according to a new study, people aren’t attending as often; the churches are keeping baby boomers but losing Gen-Xers and Millennials;  and they are emulating smaller congregations by having smaller sanctuaries with more services and having multiple sites. [Read more…]

“Power of Positive Thinking” founder dies

Rev. Robert Schuller, one of the pioneering megachurch pastors with his Crystal Cathedral and “power of positive thinking” theology, died at the age of 88. [Read more…]

A watershed in American evangelicalism?

The New Life Church in Colorado Springs was one of the nation’s leading megachurches.  But then its pastor, Ted Haggard, was brought down in a sex and drug scandal.  Now the congregation is changing the way it is doing things.  Instead of trying to be new, it is trying to find its place in historic Christianity.  This means bringing in liturgy, every-Sunday communion, the church year, and pastoral care.  Its new statement of faith is the Nicene Creed.

Christianity Today published a sympathetic in-depth article about the changes last month.  Lutheran scholar Martin Noland sees these developments as possibly “a watershed in American evangelicalism.” [Read more…]