America’s Largest Churches and Megalaphobia

America’s ten largest churches in Sunday attendance are:

  1. Lakewood Church – Houston, Texas
  2. North Point Community Church – Alpharetta, Georgia
  3. Willow Creek Community Church – South Barrington, Illinois
  4. Southeast Christian Church – Louisville, Kentucky
  5. Saddleback Church – Lake Forest, California
  6. Woodlands Church – The Woodlands, Texas
  7. Central Christian Church – Las Vegas, Nevada
  8. Second Baptist Church – Houston, Texas
  9. Phoenix First Assembly of God – Phoenix, Arizona
  10. Christ’s Church of the Valley – Peoria, Arizona

Megalaphobia is the fear of large objects. Megachurches are large communities of faith, and often take a lot of undue criticism from church megalaphobics.

You know the drill.

Without first-hand knowledge of megachurch life, we’re supposed to assume them spiritually shallow, consumer-based, lacking in community, and symptomatic of virtually everything wrong with Christianity today. Having spent significant time studying 4 of the 10 churches mentioned above and getting to know their leaders, I have a hard time understanding why some continue to view megachurches with such suspicion.

This is a fairly common position in conservative fellowships like Churches of Christ–my own tribe. Smaller Churches of Christ in particular can be quite suspicious of larger Churches of Christ, de facto, and extremely suspicious of large churches outside Churches of Christ. Why is this? Here are a few reasons I’ve come up with, and I’d love to hear yours if you’ve noticed this:

  • A belief that largeness is symptomatic of compromise of beliefs or practices. But, why do we think this?
  • Jealousy. Never good.
  • Xenophobia. There aren’t a lot of large Churches of Christ, and so we fear what we haven’t experienced.
  • Caricaturing. Big churches are focused on buildings, money and superficial things. Small churches are focused on the Kingdom and evangelism. Hmmm…
  • Certain megachurch pastors rub us the wrong way for various reasons. Well, wouldn’t they do the same if they were in a smaller church? And, don’t smaller churches have some people in them that rub us the wrong way?

Churches will always be better off by seeking to learn from one another rather than caricaturing or giving in to megalaphobia. Bigger isn’t always better. Smaller isn’t better. Better is better. All of us need to strive to be better than we are in character and ministry–and we can do that by encouraging one another and learning one another. Megachurches have a ton to teach us. And, whether we like it or not, all of us still have a lot to learn.

I’m not under the illusion there aren’t churches that are a mile wide and an inch deep. I just know there are also a lot of churches that are an inch wide and an inch deep. Bigger isn’t better. Smaller isn’t better. Better is better. Let’s all get better–to God’s glory and for the sake of the world.

Thoughts? Which of the reasons above (or one I didn’t mention) do you think is most prevalent. How can churches get past this?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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