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ccchhhrrriiisss
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Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4529


 'Megachurches' draw big crowds

[i]I read this article this morning. I found it disturbingly sad.
-Chris
Jeremiah 29:11-13[/i]

[b]'Megachurches' draw big crowds [/b]
[i]By Joyce Kelly and Michael Conlon
Tue Nov 22, 8:26 AM ET[/i]

CHICAGO (Reuters) - On a recent Sunday at Willow Creek Community Church, a Christian rock band joined by dancing children powered up in the cavernous main hall, their images ablaze on several gigantic screens.

Thousands of worshipers from the main floor to the balcony and mezzanine levels were on their feet rocking to a powerful sound system. Outside cars filled a parking lot fit for a

shopping mall. Inside some people drifted into small Bible study groups or a bookstore and Internet cafe for lattes, cappuccinos and seats by a fireplace.

This church near Chicago and others like it number their congregations in the thousands on any given Sunday in stadium-size sanctuaries; but in the end a major appeal of America's megachurches may be the chance to get small.

Institutions like California's Saddleback Church, Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois and Houston's Lakewood Church, each drawing 20,000 or more on a weekend, offer not just a vast, shared attraction but a path that tries to link individuals on a faith-sustaining one-to-one level beyond the crowd, observers and worshipers said.

Rick Warren, founder of California's Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling book "The Purpose-Driven Life," told a seminar held earlier this year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that about 20 churches in America have more than 10,000 in weekend attendance.

"These churches can do a ton of things that smaller churches can't," said Nancy Ammerman, professor of the sociology of religion at the Boston University School of Theology.

"They have the resources to produce a professional-quality production every weekend, with music (often specially composed for the occasion and backed by a professional ensemble) and video and lighting and computer graphics and a preacher who knows how to work a crowd," she said.

But they also support "dozens or even hundreds of specialized opportunities for people to get involved in doing things with a small group of others. If you want someone to talk to who really understands what it is like to parent an autistic child, you may find a whole support group in a megachurch," she added.

MORE CHOICE

"Or if you really love stock car racing, but hate being surrounded by drunken rowdies, you can go with a busload of your church friends. I wouldn't say that there are fewer rules in most of these churches. Most of them really expect people to get involved in ways that can have a profound impact on their lives. It's just that there are so many paths into involvement that a smaller church just can't match," Ammerman said.

That's part of what Richard and Nancy Sauser of Schaumburg, Ill., said they found at Willow Creek where they have been members for more than 10 years. They attend regularly with their daughters, ages 5 and 7. The 30-year-old church draws 20,000 weekend worshipers.

"Anything they put their minds to, they can pretty much do," he said, marveling at the power inherent in size. But he added, "Willow Creek has the resources to effectively execute on multiple facets of church life," through more than 100 different ministries.

Sauser said he does not attend Willow Creek for its size but for the teaching and the ministry.

When the thousands at Willow Creek break into smaller groups for Bible study, the men's ministry, the special needs ministry and the adult ministry, a lot of life change occurs. "In the small groups, that is where it really gets good," Sauser said.

When the crowds head for Willow Creek's parking lot, attendants in orange vests direct processions of cars into smoothly paved parking lots ahead of the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services. Inside, the throng moves through the hallways and up and down escalators and stairs, welcomed by smiling greeters.

Some drop off children at Sunday school.

On the first floor Danielle Jackola of Hoffman Estates, Illinois, a mother of two who recently moved to the area from California, has come in search of a church. After listening to dynamic lead pastor Gene Appel speak on family and passing the baton of faith from one generation to the next, she liked the message -- and the entertainment.

"I had never been to something like that. I think that is one of the ways of getting your numbers up ... to get the message across but to keep it fun and upbeat. And more contemporary to get more young families involved," she said a few days later -- after deciding to join the church.

SEARCH FOR MEANING

Scott Thuma, a sociologist of religion at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, said his research indicates there are at least 1,200 U.S. Protestant churches which claim more than 2,000 weekly attendees.

Megachurches are addressing the needs of Americans who are disinterested in "traditional church" yet want to deepen a sense of meaning in their lives. Classes and volunteer ministry opportunities lead to a deeper commitment, he said.

"They have opened worship to the seeker and the unsaved rather than reserving Sunday worship for the saved and sanctified," Thuma added.

The three largest churches are Saddleback, Willow Creek and Houston's Lakewood. But Warren said the world has far larger churches, pointing to mammoth Christian congregations in Nigeria, South Korea and elsewhere.

Warren said U.S. Protestants have returned to the 19th century roots of the evangelical movement, emphasizing social issues such as caring for the sick, the poor and the powerless, and not just concentrating on personal salvation.

"The small group structure is the structure of renewal in every facet of Christianity, including Catholicism," Warren told the Pew forum. He said his church has 9,200 lay ministers leading more than 200 different ministries all over southern California with 2,600 small groups in 83 cities.

[i]To view the complete article, visit[/i]:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20051122/lf_nm/religion_megachurches_dc


_________________
Christopher

 2005/11/23 10:22Profile
Sir_Edward
Member



Joined: 2005/10/19
Posts: 124
Michigan

 Re: 'Megachurches' draw big crowds

The church is South Korea he is talking about that is larger is completely different than this. It stands against Saddleback in a big way.

The main ministry is prayer. Real prayer. There at least a dozen prayer mettings scattered around the country that go all day and all night continually. There's is a church based on despirate need becasue they see the threat of Communism and atomic weapons right accross their border. They do not come to church to get affirmed but to humble themsleves before God so that he will be merciful to them.

Small groups are right on, but they are not based on different needs like in Saddleback. I can imagine a small group with an autistic child in Korea -- he would be prayed for and very likely healed. The Korean church is Big -- HUGE, but it does not meet in one place at all nor does it advertize or talk about it's purpose much -- It just loves God, obeys his Word and Prays.

Rick Warren has created a needs based church, but if I may be blunt: what gospel are they following . Sin is hardly menitoned in Rick's sermons that I have heard. "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you. You must accept the gospel to experience this wonderful plan." Ray Comfort has some stuff to say about that.

Rick is in error of his assesment of 19th century roots. He is only doing half of it. The 19th century was also one of -- "be holy for God is holy" This is the age of the holiness movement accross the World. The Salvation Army. the Nazarenes, even Pentecostals can trace their roots back here in the fires of holiness. It was more than aobut meeting need -- it was about changing hearts through the gospel. The real one.

I see no real difference in what mega churches offer in their services and a mall offers for shoppers. The atmosphere is the same and so is the attitude of the shoppers. Self centered evangelism appealing to a persons' flesh leading to false conversion instead of convicting his spirit leading to repentance. I wonder how many people beleive they are saved but don't know it in their heart?

As long as churches are judged by size, professionalism and budget we will have this. I wonder if truth will ever be standard again.

Blessings.


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Ed Raby

 2005/11/23 12:07Profile
habakkuk3
Member



Joined: 2005/10/18
Posts: 490
Virginia

 Re:

My wife used to play piano at the church I beleive referenced in South Korea. They have their own issues but it's not nearly as bad as it is here.

My pastor says this often. We have no programs. I'm not going to try and meet any of your needs, it's just raw Jesus. I thank God for that. There's no program that caters to the self offered because the self has to die at the cross.

Unfortunately the church of Jesus Christ is market driven. As my pastor aptly said, "Sheep are led but goats are driven." Enough said...


_________________
Ed Pugh

 2005/11/23 20:37Profile









 Re: 'Megachurches' draw big crowds

Rick Warren said

Quote:
"The small group structure is the structure of renewal in every facet of Christianity, including Catholicism,"

This is a truth, as long as individuals are genuinely seeking God. The whole 'cell' church idea came from prayer cells in a Catholic church where the priest was interested in his people knowing God for themselves. It followed his asking a parishoner how come she had so much joy.

Quote:
Rick is in error of his assesment of 19th century roots. He is only doing half of it. [b]The 19th century was also one of -- "be holy for God is holy"[/b] This is the age of the holiness movement accross the World. The Salvation Army. the Nazarenes, even Pentecostals can trace their roots back here in the fires of holiness. It was more than aobut meeting need -- it was about changing hearts through the gospel. The real one.

This also works, if the full gospel presented includes prayer for healing.

 2005/11/24 6:10









 Re: 'Megachurches' draw big crowds

Brother Chris,

why did you find it sad?

I found it quite encouraging, only God knows the fruit in those hundreds of small group meetings. I pray there are many solid mentors helping and holding new believers accountable to this ministry of reconciliation.

that said, would I go to a megachurch? or am I purpose driven?......... no, its all too popular and "pop" for me....I prefer Brainerd's church in the wild! (lol) or Bonhoefer's concentration camp bible study.......

why does everyone here find Warren so distressing?

 2005/11/24 20:04
JFEdgar
Member



Joined: 2005/10/21
Posts: 133
Wellington, Ohio

 Re:

Quote:
why does everyone here find Warren so distressing?



Well, personally, I see most megachurches as catering to self, and promoting themselves based on what "We can do for you" or what "God can do for you". This will never produce a true, inward conversion. People must come to God with an attitude of "I need you" and "What must I do to be saved?" not "What will you give me to improve my life?". I dont doubt that there is fruit in many of the small groups, and I dont doubt that it has opened doors. God is bigger than the wrong focus of these churches and will sometimes use them anyway. But I too often hear the quote "God will use anything"... rather than the quote "What is God's way, and what does He want us to do?".


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Joe E

 2005/11/24 20:43Profile
Sir_Edward
Member



Joined: 2005/10/19
Posts: 124
Michigan

 Re:

I think JFEdgar hit it on the head here -- I find Warrne distressing becasue he uses the Bible to dismiss the Biblical way of doing evangelism. Rick is very much about what God can do for you rather than -- 'What must we do to be saved'. I do not doubt that some good is being done, but there is a lot that is let slide for the sake of being 'seeker' sensitive. I told my church we were going to be Holy Spirit Sensitive. That is I would work to build a praying, discipling and preaching the gospel on the street corners church (Literally) Results would not be the measure of our success but how much we looked like the church in Acts. So far -- OK.

This issue of small groups I can see -- I think the house church' with the Chinesse church as a model is very good -- start a church by meeting in your house , when you can't fit anymore -- split into two houses. Follows what happened in the NT and early church as well. Doesn't work well for the Megachurch or the 'professional' preacher though. I think when I am done here in my current church, I would like to plant one based on this model.

Blessings.


_________________
Ed Raby

 2005/11/24 21:57Profile
habakkuk3
Member



Joined: 2005/10/18
Posts: 490
Virginia

 Re:

Good point on Saddleback,

The focus on the self-life in most churches is distressing to me. There is no denial of self but rather a catering to it. As someone who came out of the New Age movement, I found many of the teachings in the church to be the same.

Small groups are okay. We had them in the church I previously attended. Frankly, I prefer the model that Wesley built over the cell groups (there's a bit different). There's a greater accountability one to another but it takes time for the walls to come down between each other.

God has done in our Friday prayer meetings and the Holy Spirit has enabled me to confess and repent of some things that were so deeply embedded in my heart but there has to be a safe place.

Small groups do enable you to get to know one another and pray very specific prayers because you know what to pray for.


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Ed Pugh

 2005/11/24 23:20Profile
ccchhhrrriiisss
Member



Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4529


 Re:

Hi Neilgin1...

Quote:
why did you find it sad?

I found it quite encouraging, only God knows the fruit in those hundreds of small group meetings. I pray there are many solid mentors helping and holding new believers accountable to this ministry of reconciliation.

I don't have a problem at all with small group meetings or house churches. In fact, I prefer such meetings over most other types of fellowship.

I suppose that I do have a problem of sorts with the entire "megachurch" concept. In my opinion, it just seems that the entire rationale of the "megachurch" is [u]selfish[/u]. These churches concentrate on [i]programs[/i] -- what the Church can do for the congregation. Most "advertise" such programs as a reason to fellowship. They also stress [i]involvement[/i] -- and teach that such involvement is a way to "keep the sheep" of the congregation. But this selfishness is not just confined to megachurches. It seems rampant in much of modern Christianity.

For instance, the biggest problem that I have with Christian rock-and-roll is [i]not[/i] the music. It is the attitude by those that listen to such music -- and the unwillingness to even consider the possibility that the music (or lifestyle associated with it) may or may not be worldly.

This mentality (both within Christian rockers and with mega-church pastors) seems like such individuals are either attempting to make Jesus [i]more acceptable[/i] to others -- or to make Jesus fit in with their own personal lifestyle or desires.

A true Church is not self-centered. Rather, it is Christ-centered. Like Bonhoefer's bible study in the concentration camp, the focus is always on pleasing Christ rather than our own desires.

I have attended some megachurches (as well as small to moderate sized churches that pretend to be mega-churches in the making). This left a bad taste in my mouth for the entire mega-church movement.

:-)


_________________
Christopher

 2005/11/25 0:07Profile









 Re: 'Megachurches' draw big crowds

Neil asked

Quote:
why does everyone here find Warren so distressing?

Because it's a supertanker of a culture and even in the small groups, I suspect it is very difficult to find encouragement to hear the Voice of the Shepherd and permission to obey Him.

I've read parts of the websites, and it is clear that conformity to the group activity is [i]required[/i]. Maybe there is a breakaway point, but, where....?

 2005/11/25 8:33





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