9 Megachurch MYTHS Debunked

So, this week inadvertently turned into Megachurch Week on the blog. In the event you missed it, everything started Tuesday with some data on the continued growth of megachurches. Then on Wednesday, I shared a new infographics from Leadership Network on the financial health of megachurches.

Throughout the week, I’ve received blog comments, Facebook messages, tweets and emails challenging the positive influence of several megachurches — some by name, some not. I get it. Some megachurches are not healthy environments. As I said Tuesday, I think some are quite terrible and fulfill every stereotype out there. Yet, there are also some great ones, and for that I am thankful. I want to understand them more and, when possible, to encourage them on their journey.

And while I encourage them, I’d also encourage those of you not pastoring or attending megachurches to do the same. Yes, there are some terrible megachurches. Just like there are some terrible churches that run 125 every week.

But my job, and yours, is not to indiscriminately cast stones at every church that happens to be, or not to be, a certain size.

Wednesday evening, I got an email from my friend Scott Thumma, one of the authors of the research I had quoted and one of the top megachurch researchers in the country, and I got an idea. Scott actually authored the book that debunks megachurch myths, appropriately titled Beyond Megachurch Myths. If you routinely deal with, work at or attend a megachurch, I would encourage you to buy the book. It’s full of research, anecdotes and stats and is written in a very accessible way.

Without further ado, here are the nine megachurch myths from Scott Thumma and Dave Travis, and a little of my commentary about each of them.

Keep in mind that these are their myths and I am commenting on them.

1. All Megachurches Are Alike.

Scott and Dave identified (and listed examples of: p. 31-38) at least four different streams of megachurches: Old Line/Program-Based (large FBC’s and other historic churches); Seeker (Saddleback, Willow Creek, etc.); Charismatic/Pastor-Focused (Church without Walls, Lakewood, Potter’s House); and New Wave/Re-Envisioned (NewSpring, Mars Hill Seattle, The Village).

If you are at all familiar with the church names or pastors of those churches, you know they are nothing alike. The same could be said of the church I pastor and any other church plant that meets in a movie theater like we do. Our size and surroundings may be similar, but our churches would likely be very different.

2. Megachurches Are Just Too Big.

“Of the 320,000 Christian churches, 60 percent of them have fewer than 100 participating adults and children (p. 45). And when surveyed, 64 percent of megachurch attendees knew as many or more people in the megachurch than they did at smaller churches (p. 46). 80 percent of attendees felt satisfied with the level of pastoral care they received (p. 47).”

Any church can be “too big.” But as our culture becomes increasingly urbanized and less rural, large churches become less intimidating — just as large cities became less intimidating for farmers in generations past.

Simply put, obviously many people do not think they are too big.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and leads the Stetzer ChurchLeaders podcast. Ed is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.