Very large churches are sometimes accused of being shallow. A mile wide and an inch deep. There is certainly truth to that potential, but I have found that many of the driving characteristics that allowed a church to become 2,000 or more people, or 10,000 or more, include a discipline and depth that brings much integrity to their ministry.
Nonetheless, the risk of shallow is a real one.
Growing a local church always involves risks and trades; there is no perfect plan. But the trades are not an either/or situation. The primary and most common trade is the willingness to risk depth of discipleship (spiritual formation) for reaching more people. These two will live in tension, however they are not mutually exclusive.
To reach more people risks depth and community.
To maintain closeness and intimacy risks reaching more people.
There is no perfect formula. Let’s be candid, there are small churches that are shallow and large churches that have depth. Just as there are large churches that are stuck and no longer reach new people, and many small churches that are growing like crazy by reaching new people. Ah, and when that’s true, the small church becomes larger! Then the risk is simply swapping one trade for another.
Personally, I think generalizations are unwise, but I understand why we make them, and they often provide for provocative and productive conversations.
So for that conversation, let’s focus on the question of depth in spiritual formation within the megachurch.
1) The church will never have more depth than its leaders.
Programs don’t produce depth of spiritual maturity, leaders do. I’m privileged to serve under a leader of great wisdom, depth and discipline. Kevin Myers is the founding and senior pastor 12Stone Church, a megachurch located in the suburbs of Atlanta. Kevin has a strong and vibrant prayer life, chases God with passion, and lives with great integrity. Those qualities are infused into the DNA of the church. The wisdom and insight that God grants him, whether in a board room or teaching on Sunday morning, is truly Holy Spirit driven.
Kevin would tell you, and so would I, that it is certainly more difficult to drive depth in churches that grow larger and larger, but that’s why we keep leaning in and leading! 12Stone Church has its flaws, but being shallow, easy or “all show” is not among them. Guests, including pastors, nearly always include among their first comments, the sense of spiritual intensity. It all starts with the leaders.