Wednesday, June 07, 2006

POC vs. Gigantor, Part 2

A few weeks ago I decided that I probably shouldn't post every day so that people who visit here less frequently don't miss something. I was also in a funk about posting here in general. I don't know what happened since then.

Right, so when we last left a certain rant against the local megachurch, the blogosphere had begun to respond in surprising and constructive ways. In part, it was surprising because it was constructive. It was also surprising because it showed that my blog constituency extends beyond simple agreement. Not that I write for agreement (remember UCC Leakgate?).

So the post got linked and the responses came, and in case you didn't read them, here's a summary and some response of my own. I am going to attempt this while minimizing the felt need to defend my own ministry:

~'Don't blame the megachurch for your problems.' This one is easy: true. I know of no church that would blame a bigger church for their being small, other than perhaps accusations of sheep-stealing which stem from a bigger church offering a choice that a smaller church can't or won't.

~'No one holds exclusive rights to movie showings.' I actually covered this in my previous entry. What raised the suspicion was not that another church was doing a movie night, but that a 'bigger better' church was doing a 'bigger better' movie night so soon after ours. Again, I would err on the side of coincidence and tradition in this instance. However, megachurch supporters should be aware of the 'bigger better' attitude in their context, i.e. 'We have 1000 people, we're doing something right.'

~'Megachurches are big because they're out there. Small churches are small because they're not.' HOW a church is out there is the crux of this issue for me. A church can be out there by hosting concerts and pizza parties and pool tournaments and 'safe alternatives' after football and basketball games. None of these are inherently bad and are needed in the community. A church can also be out there by building a Habitat house, hosting a soup kitchen or food pantry, walking in various fundraising walks (CROP, Relay, March of Dimes), taking local or not-so-local mission trips, and generally cultivating a spirit of mission that reaches beyond Pizza Evangelism (I just made that up). My cynicism about the human condition is going to shine through a little here when I ask: what are people going to find more attractive and gravitate toward? Obviously, at least to me, the pizza and pool. Jesus was out there by turning water to wine and eating with F-listers, but he was also eating with F-listers and healing and feeding the poor and forgiving and so on.

But this whole issue stemmed from a movie night, so how do I explain that? Basically, if you're only doing movie nights, that's how I explain it.

~'You're a pastor. You shouldn't use such foul language.' To me, this is missing the forest for the trees. But more than one person got hung up on this so I guess I have to say something. I don't. But you'd be surprised at how some of the Greek in the Gospels and Paul should be translated. This is more a cultural issue and less a moral one, outside of using such language insultingly. I don't know why I even included this paragraph. Somalian children are starving.

This discussion goes on and on, but I'm done writing about it except in response to comments. In fact, I'm taking tomorrow off. The Roundup comes on Friday. Later, kids.


Anonymous said...

I just found your blog. Interesting! Megachurches are big because they do some things very, very well. They tend to be full of a large percentage of people who would rather be spectators than doers. I've been a member of 2 of these in my lifetime. The music is always world class, like going to a free concert. But not everyone likes big. Some people are intimdated by large groups. They want to be part of a smaller congregation where they can be more active and get to know almost everybody.

We are currently in a church of 50 that my husband pastors. Finances are not an issue because my husband has a full time job outside the church so finances are not a reason to grow (reaching people for Christ still is). My friends who still go to megachurches have kids with various talents but no chance to perform in a megachurch (you have to be almost perfect and there are way to many people to give everyone a chance). I invite them to our church where we are happy to have everyone share their gifts. We have been treated to singing, harp playing, signing, various specials on different musical instruments and such. If you want to be involved smaller is better (megachurches have "tryouts" and thus rejects).

"Small" is the selling point in our church. Everybody knows your name. You get to sit and drink coffee several times a week with other members and the pastor if you want to. Some people really want or need to spend time with their pastor, just to fellowship or to talk. Megachurches are too big for anything but superficial relationships with clergy people for almost everyone.

We eat together, we have fun together. Some of the people we have coming have no other family or none around. We are it. Some have been rejected by other congregations or had other bad experiences. I tell them if anybody does that (whatever their concern)to them in our church, let us know and we (several of us) will tell them to stop because that's not what we are.

If the megachurch copied you, you had a good idea. They cannot copy your small caring fellowship and the easy availability of a caring pastor who spends time with them, drinking coffee. You have lots they don't have. If they are copying you too much, it's a sign they are having internal problems with growth and membership retention. Don't sweat it.

I'm about halfway through a book called "The Indispensable Guide to Smaller Churches" by David R. Ray. He has a lot of good things to say about smaller churches that may leave you feeling glad you are in one. This is not to say that churches should stay small and stagnate. We still have the great commission.

As for any foul language, it's not the forest or even a tree, just a tripwire. Yes, Somalian children are starving as are Sudanese, Indian, Chinese and many others. What matters is if we are doing at least something about it. Samaritan's Purse is good. So is Heifer Project and many others.

I think I'll go blog about megachurches versus small nurturing churches. Thanks for the idea!

God Bless You!

Jeff Nelson said...

Welcome, Anon. Thanks for stopping by. I actually own that David Ray book. It has served me well.

I hope to read what you have written. If you think of it, please log in so I can see where to go.

Jeff Nelson said...

Welcome, Anon. Thanks for stopping by. I actually own that David Ray book. It has served me well.

I hope to read what you have written. If you think of it, please log in so I can see where to go.

flint cordoroy said...

I am in tennesse presently, in a high "growth" region outside of Memphis. There are mega-churches all over here. they are Gaudy and pointless. I suspect people are more reassured by the power of enormity and the freedom of anonymity it provides.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous - well put.