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The Bubble Bursts: How the American Church Has Set Itself Up for a Crash

You know, for all of the free market competition we have here in America, we have a real tendency toward conglomeration. 

You knew that already, I bet.

Of course, you know that scads of retailers have gone out of business, while just a couple have risen to the top and consolidated the market. Amazon dominates online retail because they are doggone good at what they do, better than anyone else.

The food we buy at the supermarket has the appearance of variety, but really the vast majority of foods that we buy come from just a handful of conglomerates. Think you’re sticking it to Starbucks by purchasing the cheaper Seattle’s Best? Think again, sucker. Seattle’s Best is a secret Starbuck’s brand to trick all of their haters.

The vast majority of the news and information we are exposed to comes from just about half a dozen conglomerates a far cry from the 30 or so media outlets of a few decades ago.

And most of our nation’s money goes into the vaults of just a few banks. We saw all of the benefits of that in 2008 and beyond.

So what does all of this conglomer-ization have to do anything?

It has everything to do with the economy of the American church, which just might be situated for economic disaster.

The Economy of Big Church

Like big food, media, money, retail, pharma, oil and all the other conglomerates that make up most of our economy, it seems apparent to me that the American church has become condensed over the last few decades.

Sure, our denominations are still fractured. But what we have is the rise of the megachurch and the celebrity pastor. An 18th-century celebrity pastor could be an itinerant revival preacher, reaching a few hundred people. A 19th-century celebrity pastor might have a large urban church and have greater influence. A 20th-century celebrity pastor could influence still more people with a television or radio ministry. But a 21st-century celebrity pastor trumps them all. With enough dollars, a media empire can be built, far reaching and much more durable and lucrative than a revival sermon or a pamphlet.

What we are seeing is a great portion of the American church being defined and engineered by a very few number of pastors. I don’t have to name them. We all have at least one who comes to mind. Tens of thousands of American Christians consider a celebrity pastor to be “their” pastor. Tens of thousands of people: all of their energy, their time, their money and their attention, consolidated in the hands of a few mere men.

What could go wrong?