Very few in the United States balk in abject horror or astonished wonder at the idea of the megachurch any more. In other words, the megachurch recoil in the Christian world has finally calmed down.
Megachurches are there; we know what they are about; we debate their merits and demerits; we make big life decisions based on our convictions. This does not mean that there is no error here, but it does mean that the megachurch has become a normalized piece of furniture in the room of faith.
So what will be the future ecclesiastical landscape?
I think that the megachurch will be a fixture in religion for the foreseeable future. However, it definitely won’t be hailed as the definitive “way of the future” in any sense.
Some will continue to function as normal. In the larger scheme of things, some of these will act as “feeders” to other Christian congregations in the area, thus furthering Christ’s kingdom in a more roundabout way.
I saw this firsthand in the DC area. Seekers, the curious and nominal believers can come to enjoy a show, hear a sermon, remain unperturbed in the enormous crowds, and enjoy the energy and facilities of a megachurch. However, if these same people want depth, they will be referred to small groups. But, more often than not, hungry Christians will begin to attend smaller congregations with more robust, less open theologies and more engaged membership care.
It seems that other megachurch congregations will, in fact, transform.
As this fascinating Christianity Today article reports, New Life Church of Colorado Springs (formerly under the leadership of Ted Haggard) has begun to alter its approach to pastoral leadership, worship style, churchly layout and even the methods of charity work. New Life Church is starting to look more like a more traditional “large church,” the kind that was a common sight throughout the church’s history.
Time will reveal the destiny of the megachurch movement. God only know its full fruits and meaning.