To most people, the word "mega" suggests bigness and power, not necessarily missional ministry and sacrifice. (It combines nicely with well-known words like megalomaniac, megaphone, and mega-millions. Words like mega-service, mega-sacrifice, and mega-witness, well... not so much.) Although "mega" is not exactly a word we think of when subjects like Jesus, the Bible, or the Early Church are discussed, it definitely grabs our attention.
Remember my first post in the series? My hopes were that the discussion would go beyond "mega" and reside in missional. That is the most redemptive path for people far from God. You see, lost and hurting men, women, and children in your community really don't care at all if you are mega, small, house, or aspiring for greatness. They care if you are real and if Jesus is making a qualitative difference in the way that you live. Sad to say, for them, most of our big debates in Christendom do not matter. And for us, that should matter. So, where are we going?
We need to tell an alternative story. Instead of efforts to expose the megachurch as a fraud, we need to talk about what really matters. To change the culture in and around the Christian movement, we need to change the conversation. And we must never forget that people far from God are hearing our rants against one another. They see our blogposts and our tweets-- and hear us talk around the water cooler about what Christian or church we despise. What are they thinking as they watch us criticize and cannibalize each other? We don't want to know.
The alternative story includes more about Jesus and personal transformation and less about our church. That is so much more attractive than the most attractional church, mega or not. Paul described a "not about me" disciple . . . "For Christ's love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: if One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised" (II Corinthians 5:14-15). Read that again . . . that is attractive! Don't you think?
New expressions of church are coming-- and I am excited about them. House churches, missional communities, multihousing churches, and more. However, the oft-prophesied death of existing expressions is greatly exaggerated. What will the future look like? Some predict, "I see megachurch dominating." Others predict, "The era of the megachurch is gone." By the way, only the erroneous predictions of the second coming of Jesus have come more frequently.
Our sons and daughters are disenchanted with what they have seen in us. Yet they will go forward as a result of their restlessness and create new expressions of biblically-faithful, missionally-engaged churches. Let them get on mission.
Often we become like those leaders who were so angry toward us 30 years ago for corrupting the church with our dreams. Married to our methodologies born in the 90's we have discovered our non-negotiable "way things ought to be" or our methodological ethic. It is easy to be critical of the church and her new expressions. The job of deconstructionist is always there for the taking. But as Dr. Phil might say, "How is that working for us?" It is much more difficult to be a part of the church solution. Christ's church is in a time of tremendous transition, and the future of our mission-- and those we will reach and serve-- is in the balance.
The Future Church - Where will God be at work in 20 years? In all places there are going to be house churches, relational communities, mid-sized churches, traditional churches, denominational churches, non-denominational churches and . . . megachurches. Exactly what it will look like no one knows.
My concern is that angst against mega church distracts. We need all kinds of churches-- God is using the megachurch in Korea and the house church in China. We should hold models loosely-- but hold Jesus and His mission firmly.
So, as I started, I will say again. Being in a megachurch can stunt missional activity-- and the best megachurches have to work against that. The worst megachurches don't seem to care if they are on mission or not. However, it is simply not helpful to write off large churches as rooms full of mindless automatons. They are people seeking to live on mission for the gospel sake and can (and do) overcome the challenges inherent in being a large church.
Yesterday, I spoke at Change Point Church in Anchorage Alaska, the largest church in the state. Our conversation? "How do we get people on mission?" They've enlisted Mike Breen of 3DM ministries to help them on their journey to missional community. (You might enjoy Mike and my conversation from The Exchange.) I can give you 50 other examples of megachurches on the same path-- don't discount their journey.
My hope is that we can be as faithful as we can and provoke one another to love and good deeds-- mega, micro, and everything in between. And may all of our churches be biblically-driven and missionally-engaged in order to make His name and His fame more widely known.