For over 25 years I’ve lived and pastored in Orange County, California.
In the last 50 years this county has experienced as much megachurch success as anywhere else on earth. We’ve given birth to the Crystal Cathedral, Calvary Chapel, The Vineyard, TBN, Saddleback Church and many other megachurches and ministries. We haven’t just grown a lot of megachurches, we’ve started mega-movements.
So if there’s anywhere on earth where the overall moral and spiritual climate should be higher now than it was 50 years ago, it’s Orange County, where we have so many successful stories of church growth.
But has Orange County become a more church-going place in the last 50 years? A more Christian place? A more moral place? A more godly place?
You don’t need to live here to know that the answers to those questions are “no”, “No”, “NO” and “you aren’t seriously asking me that question, are you?”
Instead, it’s obvious that the culture of our county (and maybe our country) has been more impacted by Disneyland than by all our churches combined. Including the church I pastor. Sadly, the cultural influence of our churches probably even lags a little behind TV shows like “The OC” and “Real Housewives”. (Incidentally, I’m married to a real housewife of Orange County. That show ain’t it.)
If individual congregational growth is as important as we’re told it is, shouldn’t the moral and spiritual climate be rising in the communities where megachurches are thriving?
But that’s not the case. Not in my county. And not in other regions experiencing megachurch growth.
This probably sounds like an indictment on megachurches, but it truly isn’t meant to be. It’s simply a reality we need to be aware of and take seriously.
Who’s Changing the Culture of Our Communities?
Most megachurches have done great ministry in their communities. They’ve led people to Jesus, fed the poor, mended marriages, helped recovering addicts, and so much more. It’s likely that the spiritual and moral slide of their communities would have been faster and steeper without the influence of good, healthy churches, both large and small.
But is there any region on earth where the rise of megachurches has elevated the moral or spiritual climate of its surrounding culture?