I’ve been reading Beyond Megachurch Myths by Scott Thumma and Dave Travis. I was flipping through the channels, looking for something appropriately manly, like ESPN, and saw Thumma speaking on CPAN2 about his new book. He had a lot of interesting things to say, and so I got on Amazon and ordered the book. I’m still reading it.
The book is a study of “megachurches,” defined as Protestant congregations with typical attendance of over 2,000 people.
Now, my own church has attendance in the 600 to 700 range, so we are far from being a megachurch. But then, it’s not that hard to imagine us growing to that size. If we were to grow at a rate of 5% per year, it would only take 20 to 25 years to get there.
And so, the question that interests me is not so much how to run a megachurch, but how did churches that were once much smaller than that grow to be that size?
Let me anticipate some objections. Yes, growth is not the most important thing. Being true to Jesus is more important.
Yes, Kingdom growth is more important than our congregation’s growth. Our vision should be much larger than just our own congregation.
And, yes, church planting is also a valid way to grow.
But, all that being said, the very first church ever established — the church in Jerusalem — was a megachurch the day Peter preached the first gospel sermon. God has no objection to big churches — even if some of us do.
The real question is whether God’s Kingdom in a particular location is best served by a large church. And the research offered by this book is a good indicator of what the answer might be.
Let me re-phrase that: it’s a good indicator of what an answer might be. After all, there’s no reason to suppose that a given community is best served in only one way.
For a large church such as my own, however, there are very practical reasons to dream of being a megachurch, even if we never get there.
Megachurches have learned how to serve large numbers of members. At 600+, we are already in the top 1% of Churches of Christ nationwide. There are very few models for how a Church of Christ should do church on even this scale.
We’ve already learned that, as we’ve grown from 100 to 600+, we must adopt new strategies and new organizational structures to accommodate the growth. And when we fail to be sufficiently flexible, we inhibit growth until we figure out how to take the next step.
We’re big enough now to think about how a church of 1,000 does church, and that is surely not much different from how a church of 2,000+ does church.