People who have a problem with mega churches would have had a problem in Jesusalem!

People who have a problem with mega churches would have had a problem in Jesusalem! March 20, 2013

While I know that not everything done in every megachurch is helpful, Ed Stetzer has done us a great service in debunking many myths about megachurch. But I also know that too many seem to have a fundamental problem with large churches, as though God hated them all. It’s really odd, because what such people conveniently forget is that the first church was a mega church on its first day:

“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41)

A few verses later we see that the early church met together in the temple and in each others homes. Thus, if a church does grow the idea of a large gathering supported by smaller, more intimate meetings is nothing short of biblical!

Of course it is no more fair of us to assume every small church must be doing something amiss than it is to assume every mega church is defective.

Is it so wrong for us to long for the gospel to have similar success to that seen in Acts, presenting pastors with the problem of how to accommodate and care for the crowds?

May the following words be true of many churches today:

“None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.
And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…” (Acts 5:13)

“But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.” (Acts 4:4)

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  • Mark McCullagh

    Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. [from Egypt, Libya, Judea, Rome]. Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem … ”

    Adrian you give the impression that 3000 joined a megachurch that day. Scripture merely says 3000 joined the Church. A good exegesis of the passage will reveal that many were temporary visitors from other nations to the temple. Since many of them were there for a temple visit then the temple courts was a logical place to meet. The locals could meet in their homes. Presumably many of the 3000 returned home to their native lands.

    • Well by Acts 4 the Jerusalem church numbered 5000 men and the 3000 are spoken of as having joined the church. It seems like there were certainly big gatherings at the temple!

  • John Drake

    What you describe from Acts looks less like a mega-church and more like presbyterial connectionalism.

    • There was a big gathering in the temple courts and small gatherings in homes…pretty much exactly like a mega church!

  • Steve

    Those who take issue with mega-churches (at least in my experience) are not taking issue with overall size of a congregation. Rather it is the tendency to water down doctrine so as not to offend that large group of people.

  • I feel like the whole post is placing modern categories on an ancient situation and then coming to conclusions based upon an oversimplification of comparisons. We need to be careful about doing this, I think. It seems a little like proof-texting. Any exegesis method we use needs to take into account our natural desire to de-contextualize or mis-contextualize for our own purposes. The modern Mega-church concept certainly was not on early believers’ radar, but neither were most forms of church that we practice today! For those earliest believers, their understanding of Jesus as Messiah was a logical next step in their Jewish messianic expectations. Worship in the Temple was not only perhaps a natural extension of those expectations, but also part of something that had already been a regular practice for most of them. The Temple was, at least for Jewish men, essentially a public space, and would have been crowded during times of national holy days and festivals. Pentecost (Shavuot), for example, was a biblically commanded holiday, in which Jews annually celebrated harvest, the giving of the Torah, as well the memorial of King David’s death. Prayers and sacrifices were offered at the Temple multiple times each day, and there were pools for needed ritual cleansing as well as gathering spaces for teaching & conversation. It was mostly outdoors, as well. Gathering there would be like meeting someone in an elaborate and popular public park with covered, open-walled areas for shade surrounding the park. The idea that there was one central “big gathering” type experience where 3000-5000 Christian worshippers were together at once is extremely unlikely.

  • Rick

    People criticize megachurches for issues not necessarily related to the size of the congregations, so this post is kind of in trouble from the start.

  • The difference between most today’s megachurches and the apostles preaching in Acts 2 is that Peter was teaching the truth. While a few megachurches have saved pastors who teach from the Bible (Skip Heitzig, Charles Stanley, etc.) most megachurches do not teach the Bible, essentially being social clubs. Because they are “having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof”, there is no actual reason for them to exist, since they do not even do the most basic thing a church’s mission entails— the Great Commission.

  • Adrian,
    The problem with the modern mega church is much greater than your post assumes. Here is a recent Abounding Grace Radio program when I specifically critique the movement itself premised with the concern that the mega church is building with an American consumer big business model. The whole model is in conflict with Scripture. Please listen to the program:

  • connie

    What I have issue with is people hearing the words “mega church”, painting them all with the same broad brush, and then proceeding to judge the straw man they have just set up. I don’t think Jesus enjoys watching some of his servants pass judgment on his other servants, and worse, judging by making assumptions. I go to what could be characterised as a mega church, and many of the assumptions I read about in threads like this are so way off the mark it’s laughable. And how we got so big? Obeying the Bible, raising up leaders, raising up people to fulfill the ministries God has called them to, and then sending them out. On paper there is no way our church should be as big as it is but as my leaders show themselves faithful to what they are called to do, God gives them more to work with.

    I am not saying every mega church is a good church-but then I could never say every small church is a good church either. Regardless, I think we already have an Accuser of the Brethren and I don’t believe any of us need to join him. I wonder if the same people who decry large churches spend any time in a prayer closet asking God to bless them, to strengthen them, and to keep them true to His ways? Wouldn’t that be a better use of time?

    We are all on the same team, large and small. God has different tasks for different fellowships, and we all need to work together-as God sees us as One Body even if we don’t. Let’s quit the unrighteous comparisons, and focus on our Lord and the tasks He has placed into our hands. He won’t judge our works by the size of our fellowship, large or small. I think if we do that we will be busy enough.

  • Nathan Schram

    The amount of people attending one church isn’t the problem. The amount of money that one church spends on itself, however, is!

    Megachurches are synonymous with frivolous spending on technology and their own selfish interests (despite also receiving tax-exempt status). Churches are meant to provide for the sick, the poor and the underprivileged, and yet, they spend most of their income on leather couches, high-tech AV equipment and state-of-the-art facilities while those they are meant to provide for go wanting.

    It’s time that these megachurches (or corporations) and their leaders were held accountable for their spending.