Can Mega Be Missional, Part 4

When many hear the word megachurch, they think of polished productions, big personalities, an expansive building, stellar programs (lots and lots of programs), and crowded parking lots with orange-vested attendants. Maybe a great worship service that leaves you laughing, crying, or both. Or perhaps a creative children’s ministry– kind of a Jesus-meets-ChuckECheese type of place.

But there are megachurches in America that are undermining the stereotypical view of themselves– for the glory of God. I have already written of three realms where mega churches are making a missional impact. Today as I continue my series I will give you the final two of five realms.

Holistic Disciple Making

Perhaps one of the greatest obstacles to megachurches being missional is the ease with which individuals can simply blend into the large crowds, remaining faithful as attendees but disengaged from other members and uninvolved in service and outreach. However, some megachurches are reversing this trend by reorienting their members to the centrality of Jesus’ message: discipling people toward living their lives in outward ways, like missionaries.

For megachurches, a praxis style of discipleship is catching on, whereby seasoned servant/disciples are taking others hand in hand to the real places of ministry, quite often beyond the church campus itself. Teaching church members to live their lives from a missionary stance is 16,000-member Phoenix First Assembly in Arizona, which sends enthusiastic, well-organized teams to conduct more than a dozen outreaches, transform neighborhoods, and break the cycle of poverty and violence.

Through one ministry called Sponsor-a-Bus, Phoenix First Assembly picks up people for church– and nine bus routes operate throughout the week to serve the disabled, elderly, and nursing home residents often forgotten by society. Its independent fleet of 34 buses is recognized nationwide for serving the Phoenix metro area.

From my observations, some megachurches are training members to live with a 24/7 missional focus. That is encouraging to me.

Church Multiplication

A few years ago, the title “fastest-shrinking megachurch” may go to New Hope Christian Fellowship O’ahu in Honolulu, Hawaii, led by Wayne Cordeiro. Attendance was dropping like a rock. But Cordeiro seems pretty happy about it. On the surface, going from 12,000 weekend attendees to 9,200 may seem like decline. But by planting 83 new churches, New Hope continues to reseed itself by multiplying churches rather than adding to its own numbers. Cordeiro plans to plant New Hope’s 100th church by 2010.

In recent years, church planting has gained tremendous traction. And many megachurches are now embracing a missional vision for church multiplication. Notice I did not say church planting– these churches are not interested in simply planting one church at a time, but are leveraging their resources to multiply or plant several churches on an annual basis.

A prime example of a megachurch that engages in church multiplication is New York-based Redeemer Presbyterian led by Tim Keller. With an average weekly attendance in the thousands, it has participated in more than 100 church plants and sets aside millions for the Redeemer Church Planting Center. Redeemer is a model of local church leaders assuming significant responsibility for planting churches, not leaving the leadership to their denominations.

By making church planting a priority, some megachurches are discovering that growth is experienced on both sides– not only do daughter churches see new growth, but involved mother churches are also seeing their members strengthened to reach more unchurched members of their community.

In my next blog in the series I will wrap up the discussion for now.

Read the previous posts from this series: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.

Read more from Ed here.

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Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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