Megachurch Lesson 6. Big machines crash hard.
After a long ramble through the sand, a new pastor was welcomed with great fanfare. The first time I met Lance he had a clammy handshake and kept staring over my shoulder like he was looking for someone more important to talk to. But the second time he seemed like a decent enough guy. We all wanted to give him time and the benefit of the doubt.
After a short honeymoon period, things started to get shady. Sensational ministry campaigns were announced then mysteriously fizzled out. Pastors got fired but forced to stand on stage and say God had called them away. Lance scrambled, fumbling between strut and fluster, while the congregation checked watches and rolled their eyes.
Soon enough the writing was on the wall. This new pastor wasn’t nearly as gifted as Brother Tommy. Or maybe his gifts just didn’t fit what South Point was trying to do. Truth was, I kinda felt sorry for Lance. He was struggling to find his place, too. But few were willing to call it what it was, preferring to cling to spiritual clichés and pretend everything was OK.
Attendance plunged and ministries crumpled. Staff members quit. The counseling center dropped off and Garrett was quickly canned. The balance shifted. The CEOs took over. At some level, we were all left wondering: What happened here?
Megachurch Lesson 7. There’s hope for humanity in busted machines.
Sometimes we set ourselves up for delusion, placing more on the church than we ever should. God chose to be born in a feeding trough of a barn. Jesus built his church on Peter, the most misfit rebel disciple of them all. Church history is ragged at best. Maybe church was always supposed to be sort of a mess.
You see some nutty stuff working in a giant church, some really crazy people. But then, if you watch, you’ll see some of those same crazy people do beautiful things. The arrogant deacon feeds the homeless, the hypocrite cares for the sick, the religious bigots band together to build some widow a wheelchair accessible porch. People are just people—and in the dark, lonely places we are all basically the same, frightened and confused and feeling like we’re doing the best that we can do.
Knowing that the beautiful, shiny churchy people are just as messed up as the rest of us—well, it gave me a strange kind of hope. The feeling that maybe I could make it after all.
I went on to work with several other large churches. In every case so far, the story has been basically the same. I love the busted-up, strange, stumbling, fumbling church. I’m busted and fumbling, too.
Today South Point’s massive new sanctuary sits mostly empty. But they have a new young pastor and hope is holding on.
Editor’s note: Names and places have been changed to protect identities.
This article originally appeared here.