Sunday, August 30, 2015

Much Ado About Megachurches

Some Christians and many nonbelievers are critical of churches that have unusually large congregations. One photo I saw online showed the huge sanctuary of a well-known church with the added caption, “Instead of building mega-churches, how about building mega homeless shelters?” How many of these critics practice what they preach by letting homeless people live in their houses? Very few I suspect. Incidentally, the church in question (Lakewood Church in Houston) has ministries reaching out to the needs of the homeless.

When evangelizing I occasionally meet people who say they don’t like going to large churches because they seem so impersonal. Walking into a new church can be a somewhat intimidating experience particularly for those who haven’t been in one for a while. That’s why many fellowships have greeters who go out of their way to make first-time visitors feel welcome. Nevertheless, a person can feel lonely in any church whether there are only ten or thousands in attendance. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.”

I’m the product of a megachurch. In February 1991 I first visited Living Word Christian Center, a large church in suburban Minneapolis. After committing my life to the Lord a month later, I eventually became a member of Living Word. It was there I got firmly grounded in the Word of God and learned to become a soul winner (megachurches can teach multitudes of people how to share the gospel). In recent years, I’ve resumed attending meetings at Living Word during extended visits to the Twin Cities area.

Large churches doing the work of the Lord are having an impact on their communities and nations. David Yonggi Cho pastors the largest congregation in the world. Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea has about 830,000 members. Dr. Cho pioneered the cell group concept that plugs individuals into smaller groups connected with the church. Back in 1962, only 2% of South Koreans were Christian. Today it is around 30%.

Heaven will be like a megachurch. Revelation 7:9 talks about “...a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb...” During His earthly ministry, Jesus sometimes ministered to thousands of people at once such as when He multiplied the loaves and fishes. Wouldn’t He be more pleased seeing huge crowds gathered in His name instead of at a sporting event?

Scripture doesn’t state the ideal size of a congregation that can provide sound biblical teaching and opportunities for spiritual growth. So whether it’s a megachurch, a smaller local fellowship, or even a new one just starting up, the best church to go to is the one God has assigned you to. If you’re not already plugged in somewhere, ask God to show you where that place is.

“But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” - 1 Corinthians 12:18

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