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Though often defined as a church with more than 2,000 in worship attendance, the "megachurch" is more than that. It's that more that attracts so much controversy.
Another study of the megachurch has emerged this summer—"Not Who You Think They Are: The Real Story of People Who Attend America's Megachurches"—and most media reported on it glowingly, with headlines like "Major Study: Younger Crowds Flocking to U.S. Megachurches"
The study came partly from Leadership Network, which aims to "foster church innovation and growth through strategies, programs, tools, and resources … to identify, connect, and help high-capacity Christian leaders multiply their impact." Leadership Network has been a supporter of megachurches for 25 years, and its mission statement gets at the "more" of the megachurch ethos.
The modern megachurch is now famous for "innovation" and "growth through strategies, programs, tools, and resources" so that churches can "multiply their impact." That's the reason for its success in America, where business principles and organizational techniques sit atop the altar of Success. These principles have indeed led to many Americans being brought into the kingdom of God.
And that only makes sense. We ask overseas missionaries to adapt themselves to the culture they seek to reach. When megachurches do that in the United States, and do it effectively, we should not complain.
But at some point cultural adaptation itself needs to be adapted—back into gospel culture. For instance, African churches found it necessary to tolerate polygamy and other cultural practices in the first generation of missionaries. But by the second and third generations, maturing Christian disciples were undermining polygamy. In corporate America, it may be necessary to use the ethos of marketing to gain the gospel a hearing. But after a generation, shouldn't megachurches begin shifting away from business and consumer language in the way they conceive of their work? In none ...