Monday, April 28

"They are the same thing, aren't they?"

A fun and thought-provoking story from a Harvest University attender.

I asked one of the hotel staff if she knew where Harvest Bible Chapel was. She did not but went to ask her manager. Upon returning the manager said she did not know the location but with radio in hand contacted one of the shuttle drivers. She then proceeded to ask the driver if he knew where Willow Creek was. I, as a good Canadian and not wanting to offend my American Harvest friends, promptly corrected her and said, "no not Willow Creek but Harvest Bible Chapel". Her response was a Master Card moment, "priceless". She said, "they are the same thing aren't they?"

The blogger went on with this insightful comment:
For most who are not into church the two mega churches are just really the same thing. They don't care to know or don't see the philosophical or theological differences.

Let me speak for myself here. As an employee of Harvest Bible Chapel, I have done a lot of thinking about what our church should be about. We have tried to grow biblically, minister carefully, and steward wisely the people who have looked to learn from our church. Obviously, having a church as large, intentional and influencial as Willow Creek nearby has been a great stimulus to my thinking.

But I'd love to know the hotel's answer to this question: Is there a group of people in this town who have two things in common: 1) they love Jesus Christ, and 2) they love this city.

I hope she could correctly identify someone. Harvest, Willow, somebody else? Fine with me.

In the end, the only people who like "large" churches are pastors. "Intentional" is only good if you have good intentions, and no one in heaven is going to hear "well done, good and influencial servant."


beloved268 said...

I'm guessing the majority of the people attending the mega churches like them also. ;-)

Matthew Westerholm said...

Sure, beloved268, but my point is that the REASON people like them is not because of the size.

The size means terrible parking lots, and a (perceived?) hard time getting to know people, and "take a number" processes that inevitably come with having over 2,000 (10,000) people gather at one time.

beloved268 said...

Or they love them for things that only huge churches can provide. There are many things small churches offer that big churches cannot, and vice versa. I'm still torn on the issue, to be honest. Huge churches have the potential of making major Kingdom impact... if they keep first things first and don't get distracted by an obsession over 'excellence' (either obsession with themselves or stifling of those who still have plenty of room for improvement). The temptation is huge (though I won't say insurmountable) to start depending on yourself--your talents, your finances, your gifted leaders, your great name, your sweet facility(s)--and lose that humble desperation for the grace of God. And that temptation has to be confronted every day--every morning when we wake up and decide between laying ourselves at the foot of the cross or hurrying about to get ready and go to work. The pastor/staff person who doesn't have all that a megachurch has to be leaned upon on will either cry out to God in desperation day after day, or shrivel in apathy and contentedness with the way things have been, with their tiny, man-sized vision.

At their best, megachurches can leverage massive resources toward Kingdom growth, especially (well, only) in dense metropolitan areas such as ours. They can plant churches like crazy, with sizable core groups and budgets, as well as the influence to get things moving. They can develop (and pay) leaders with a variety of strengths and gifts for ministry, rather than forcing all leaders to fit into one mold. They can demonstrate in microcosm the hugeness of the mission and Kingdom of God, as well as a glimpse into the heavenly throne room as multitudes are pouring their hearts out in worship. They can make a massive impact on their communities, serving them through the use of their facilities and providing volunteers for community needs (school & park improvements, neighborhood development, economic relief for the poor, etc.). They can leverage funding, infrastructure and personnel for missions and overseas social justice. They can do all these things if they don't get overly distracted (financially tapped) with massaging the 'needs' of affluent crowds.

See ya 'round,

m. stephens