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8 Reasons From Tim Keller Not to Give a Megachurch to a Single Successor

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L: Image from Adobe Stock. R: Frank Licorice, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In recent posts to Facebook and Twitter, Dr. Tim Keller shared his thoughts on the disadvantages posted by the megachurch model. Keller, who is founding pastor of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, gave eight reasons why he and other church leaders chose to multiply Redeemer into several congregations, “rather than give the megachurch to a single successor.”

“Megachurches have some design deficits,” said Keller, explaining his first reason. “In general, they are poor places for formation and pastoral care due to their size. In our current cultural moment that is a deadly problem because Christians are being more formed by social media than local Christian community. We need thick communities and the size of our churches factor into that.”

Tim Keller: Multiple Congregations Are Better

Tim Keller’s second reason to avoid leaving a congregation as a megachurch is that the church leader who succeeds a megachurch’s founder is put at a disadvantage. “That person is always excessively and sometimes harshly compared in every way to the founder,” said Keller. “It’s lose-lose for them and the movement.” 

The third and fourth reasons Keller gave sound all too familiar and pertain to a church being dependent on a gifted, charismatic leader.  

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When megachurches grow quickly under one leader, Keller explained, “they usually depend too much on the gifts and personality of that founder so the sooner that addictive dependence is broken, the better.” At the same time, “often the founder comes to see the church as their personal possession,” the result being that founders “often never want to leave, nor do they know how to well. It is good to leave sooner rather than later as a spiritual discipline.”

An advantage of handing off a megachurch to multiple leaders is that doing so allows the body of Christ the opportunity to benefit from diversity in its leadership. “Because I was able to hand off Redeemer to a more diverse group of leaders–instead of one white American,” said Keller, “Redeemer has now been led by Sr Pastors who were Chinese, Korean, British, and Nagamese/Lebanese. All, though solidly united on Reformed theology, bring their distinct-enriching cultural perspectives, experiences, and wisdom.”

Keller’s sixth reason is that structuring a church under smaller congregations puts less of a strain on the church’s leaders. Said Keller, “Because smaller congregations must make use of a greater percentage of lay persons’ gifts & talents there is less dependence on staff.” There are also likely to be fewer people who are merely consumers versus actively participating in the life of the church.

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Jessica is a content editor for ChurchLeaders.com and the producer of The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past five years. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys West Coast Swing dancing, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.