Someone sent me a tweet recently that I’ve been thinking about. He asked about mega-churches and if many of the people they attract simply come from other churches. To be clear, those who come to any sized church are usually already converted people whether those churches are small, medium, large or mega. The problem isn’t just church size, but the greatest offenders are mega-churches.
I’ve led in a couple of them and worked with many more up close and believe the following to be generally true:
Mega-churches are cooler, hipper, usually more exciting than other area churches, therefore they are natural gathering points for already-converted people who are looking for “something more” – namely more program options, better worship, more services with fewer demands. In a way, they are to local churches what Wal-Mart is to mom and pop stores. Difficult to compete! I’m not convinced they do a better job all around at bringing the Kingdom of God to a community.
Mega-churches, more than other sized churches, nearly always think they are doing a significant work of evangelism but typically they are actually weak in outreach.
They typically approach evangelism as one of many programs versus making it the primary focus. With smaller churches where numbers a smaller there is a compelling and obvious need to reach out to drive numbers up. Evangelism tends to be a higher priority.
Regardless of what is claimed about evangelism, to get the real story look at the per capita baptism rates of a church.
Statistics show that the ideal sized congregation that will likely maximize evangelism is a medium-sized congregation – between 250 and about 500. Churches of that size tend to have the greatest motivation to connect with outsiders. In exceedingly large churches it is difficult to break out of attitudes of consumerism among its members.
To be fair, churches of all sizes tend to mostly attract already converted people.
Few churches of any size are doing well at winning the Lost. A church tends to be about as evangelistic as her senior pastor. You can apply that truth to any sized congregation. Great upfront teachers aren’t necessarily passionate about bringing people into a relationship with Jesus, but regardless of their natural gifting, a pastor can decide to lead others into evangelism. That’s what Paul meant when he wrote, “Do the work of an evangelist.”
My bottom line: I’d rather plant a network of 15 churches of 500 that are maximizing their potential for outreach than to have one church of 7,500 that is fun to lead, fun to be a part of, that strokes my ego, but that in the quiet moments scares me that one day God is going to call me to account for how I stewarded all of that potential. God give us wisdom to walk rightly with you.