Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Growing Numbers: Mega Church and Simple Church

As we look toward the future I believe we will see two types of churches grow rapidly in this country: mega churches and simple churches.

Actually, this is already happening. Christians are increasingly leaving congregational sized churches to move into either larger or smaller settings. This is occurring all over the country. Mega churches are doing quite well. Those who attend these churches appear to desire large gatherings, loud music, generally gifted orators, and whatever the latest trends are. These churches offer a wide variety of services and programs to various age groupings. I don't hear of mega churches struggling at all. Rather, they appear to be growing as people consolidate where they are gathering.

I also hear about increasing numbers of believers leaving institutional churches in favor of much smaller church bodies. These folks usually crave simplicity, family settings, edifying gatherings, and authenticity. While these types of church bodies tend to vary quite a bit from one to the other, the commonality of simplicity remains. Christians are increasingly finding out about this type of church life and are embracing it.

I'm a church growth enthusiast only if it refers to spiritual growth. However, as we interact with both the church and the world, it benefits us to be aware of current trends. We Christians have a disturbing tendency to operate way behind the curve when it comes to almost everything. Let's stop making that mistake. As we move forward, it is simple churches and mega churches that will be most vibrant. We should be aware of this and seek to know why this is happening.

Why, then, are mega churches and simple churches growing? I believe the answer lies in their one commonality: community. Mega churches often offer a wide variety of small groups/life groups/home groups that function something like simple churches. These groups, if operating well, provide the family type of atmosphere missing in much of life today.

In the end Christians desire community in Christ. They are finding this in mega churches and simple churches. Therefore, these types of bodies are growing.

3 comments:

Neil Braithwaite said...

Did not Jesus say “Upon this rock I will build my Ekklesia?” Is not the word “church,” and all that it stands for, a word that was purposefully used to replace “Ekklesia?”

Technology, communication and access to data and information make it easier today not only to discover scriptural truth, but also to uncover scriptural lies? And with facts in–hand as documented proof, can we not legitimately both espouse the truth AND expose false doctrinal practices within Christianity?

When Paul wrote of his trip to Jerusalem in Galatians 2, did he not explain the gospel and also expose false doctrine as well? Did he not also declare that those who infiltrated the assembly were brought in “in order to bring us into bondage?” And what exactly did Paul say about how he handled that matter? He said “we did not yield in subjection to them FOR EVEN AN HOUR, so that the TRUTH of the gospel would REMAIN with you.”

And what about Paul’s face-to-face confrontation with Cephas in Antioch when Paul told Cephas that he “stood condemned” by his hypocritical actions of not being “straightforward about the TRUTH of the gospel,” telling Cephas, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

My question to those who would continue to use the unscriptural word “church” (And everything it stands for) and continue to pander to those who run those institutions along with their supporting members as well is; if you say you have discovered the truth and now live as the Ekklesia Jesus continues to build, why do you compel others to believe that you are also just a “church?”

Eric, you write in the introduction of your book “Simple Church,” “We are all members of Christ’s body. Because of this we are united. In fact, we are all united with every other Christ follower on earth, regardless of what we believe about church life.” You follow that statement with, “In the end unity within the body of Christ is what we hope to bring about with this book.” The problem with those statements is that if you say on one hand that “we are all united REGARDLESS of what we [all] believe about church life,” then your purpose with the book cannot be defined to mean bringing about “unity,” rather it can only mean to bring about “inclusion.” So if that is the case, why then all the hub-bub about the difference between “simple church” and “institutional church?” As long as we profess Jesus as Lord it obviously really doesn’t matter about “church.”

A marketing post card mailer I just received had as its title: “Church is so much more than Sunday morning.” We all know that the real message being conveyed was that “their church” is so much more than Sunday morning. Reading further into the mailer we discover that this is in fact the real message as the mailer goes on to say: “We can offer some answers to this question” and “People have found purpose, belonging, community and hope at MHCC.” Of course this message implies that “their church” is somehow different from “other churches.”

The message people like yourself and others are sending about “simple/house church” is perceived no differently than this mailer. I was a former pew sitter myself and had seen and heard about “simple/house churches” for many years, but considered them just another group trying to carve a niche in the “church” community. And that perception was realized whenever I asked my pastor about them.

There may be, as studies show, that lots of people are leaving the institutional church and exploring “simple/house churches,” but the perception remains the same among the masses that “simple/house church” is nothing more than just another church.

Do you seek to truly separate yourself from the false “church?” Then stop using the word church as if it has anything to do with the Ekklesia. Do that and also condemn the false church and maybe then people will see the difference.

Do you believe that Jesus thinks “church” is a derogatory term, or that He’s pleased to accept what man has replaced “Ekklesia” with?

Eric said...

Neil,

That's a lot of questions.

Tim A said...

I'll answer one question. "So if that is the case, why then all the hub-bub about the difference between “simple church” and “institutional church?” As long as we profess Jesus as Lord it obviously really doesn’t matter about “church.”

Speaking the truth in love about ekklesia life is a lot more determinative than hub-bub. You have your own website. Is that hub-bub? How does not using the word church make you free of hub-bub? I don't like the word church but it doesn't seem brotherly to blast someone for using it.

Eric is not saying that all believers, institutionalized or not are in the one body means church life does not matter. It matters greatly. One difference is building with wood, hay or stubble or building with gold, silver and precious stones. There are many more differences but that is just one.