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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: Mega-Church

And: The Gathered and Scattered Church

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Last week I read And: The Gathered and Scattered Church by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, and am finally blogging a few of my thoughts.

I had heard of this book initially after a few friends were at Exponential this year.  I couldn't go because I'd just been at the Q Conference in Chicago.  However, I probably should have been there because I'm in the throes of planting Fair Haven's first multi-site right now called South Harbor Church (a week and a half from the first preview, with launch on 10.10.10.), but I couldn't give up the Q experience.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and will recommend it to several people - particularly certain chapters.  Let me begin with a critique, and end with some things I liked.

The premise of the book is basically to stop fighting over different models of the church and honor one another in our differences but seek to use whatever models work in seeking the kingdom.  The book talks often of mega and mini churches, and of missional and attractional.  These are important dichotomies on the one hand - and ones I've struggled with myself.  On the other hand, it's too easy a division to hang a hat on and there are deeper issues than the book goes into.  Ultimately, I love title, but think the book got into too much about Adullam (Halter and Smay's church), and only scratched the surface of these deeply ecclesiological issues of our time.

"And" does a good job of articulating the need for working together through various models with the same ends in mind, but in my estimation never gets to some of the deeper issues about how much a model influences the end goals.  For instance, Halter does a good job talking about moving people out of consumerism and into transformation and into dying to oneself for Christ.  He nails the issue that disciples are not consumers (chapter 3), but then never really deals with models of doing church these days that promote consumerism of a Christian sort.  In an effort to be unifying, Halter sometimes borders on not being critical enough where healthy critique is necessary.  Other times, though he says that both types of models are helpful, but then tends to tip towards favoring the missional impulse.  One question that would be more helpful to me would be around how the mega church can remain missional enough to be Christian and how does the missional church become attractional enough to stay alive and have an influence beyond a small group.  Overall, I think he tries to be balanced between multiple models, but speaks only out of the Adullum experience.  It would've been nice to see a balanced approach in this book with multiple models all expressing the unifying aspects of the gathered and scattered church.

Where "And" does hit the nail on the head in terms of what's necessary for both the scattered and gathered, missional and attractional, mega and mini is the incarnational community.  Here is how it's put on page 66:

"Whether you're starting from scratch and moving down the missional flow or starting from an existing structure and moving up, you'll notice that the center of the process is 'incarnational community.'"

By incarnational community, they mean here bands of people with the missional heart of God integrating their lives with those who don't know Him and are doing something intentional about.  Simplistic, yes, but true none-the-less.  Too many churches lose the core mission of God to reach his people far and wide and lose their very nature as church altogether.

For me, chapter 4, "Spiritual Formation for Missional Churches" was the best chapter in the book.   This chapter really deals with how to move someone from being far from God through the discipleship and growth process to the place of mobilization in ministry (in their words from Observance to Preparation to Participation to Partnership).  This is such a key issue, and one that churches tend not to do well.  We call it a "people pathway" or a "people process" - but who wants processed people!  However, churches today desperately need a pathway of discipleship that includes evangelism, grounds people in the basics, and moves them towards influential leadership in the use of their gifts.  With studies like Reveal and churches realizing their lack of depth, discipleship pathways are getting popular.  Chapter 4 is all about how to go about that, focusing on the transitions in stages, and developing a clear pathway.  I like it. This chapter is one that I will recommend several people read.

Chapter 5 is also very helpful in describing the difference between modalities (structures focused on caring for those already in the church) and sodalities (those that push toward those on the outside).  This is a helpful chapter, finding its roots in the missiology of Ralph Winter.  This is where the book gets closer to living up to its name.  I think if the book had moved this chapter earlier (after the biblical foundation of Chapter 1) and then built upon it, dealing with the centripetal and centrifugal forces necessary for the gathered and scattered church to remain in balance, it would've felt more balanced and helpful.  This chapter is one that I will recommend several people read (like church planting interns, student and children's ministries staff, seminarians, etc.)


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New Mega Church Study

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Scott Thumma and Warren Bird have released another study on America's Megachurches.  The last 10 years, a number of studies have been released through the Leadership Network.  The new one is called "Not Who You Think They Are".  Some of the other studies are the following:

There are a number of interesting items in this report.  Here is a quick list of their findings:

  • Young and single adults are more likely to be in megachurches than in smaller churches.
  • Nearly two-thirds of attenders have been at these churches 5 years or less.
  • Many attenders come from other churches, but nearly a quarter haven’t been in any church for a long time before coming to a megachurch.
  • Attenders report a considerable increase in their involvement in church, in their spiritual growth, and in their needs being met.
  • Forty-five percent of megachurch attenders never volunteer at the church.
  • New people almost always come to the megachurch because family, friends or coworkers invited them.
  • What first attracted attenders were the worship style, the senior pastor and the church’s reputation.
  • These same factors also influenced long-term attendance, as did the music/arts, social and community outreach and adult-oriented programs.
  • Attenders can craft unique, customized spiritual experiences through the multitude of ministry choices and diverse avenues for involvement that megachurches offer.

What do you think?  Read the whole piece if you can.  I think there are some interesting things to reflect on here.


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torn...

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... it's not an either-or (so let's stop beating each other up, or saying our way is the only way) but start living more creatively both-and ministries of multiple forms to reach people for Jesus and have a transformative impact on the world in which we live....It's not only a missional statement about incarnational living, but about inviting the church, or people of God to be the mission in the post-christendom (or post-modern if you please) world. His missional passion, in my estimation, is about how to be on mission in our changing world rather than doing the same thing that reaches less and less people as the culture shifts.

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Emergent Converts & MegaChurches

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(written back in August... but forgot to post) I've found the conversation around mega-churches and emergent churches lately quit fascinating. (cf. Fitch's first post, and his redux post] I've heard many people for awhile saying, "the fruit just isn't there with the Emergent Churches."  By fruit, this usually means converts.  So, when David Fitch went after Mark Driscoll and talked about this issue, I found it quit interesting.  Being someone who is emerging at heart and history (and in some ways theologically, but not others) but also being currently a pastor at a mega-church (where I sometimes fit in, and other times feel like an odd-ball) these conversations are quite intriguing.  I'm particularly interested in numbers 4 and 5 of the 5 points Fitch makes, which I've listed below - this from the Out of UR Blog:

4. Having said all this, I think that the missional communities that do persist probably have a higher conversion rate than the Driscollesque mega churches. Missional churches are much smaller, so 6 conversions from a group of 25 over ten years would match (or exceed) the percentage growth of a typical mega church. I think it would be interesting to measure how many dollars per conversion are spent in missional churches versus mega churches. It makes me smile knowing missional churches are probably more cost effective when it comes to conversions because we resist spending money on buildings, programs, and “the show.”

5. We must recognize that "missionary conversions" take longer than megachurch conversions. The conversion of a post-Christendom "pagan," who has had little to no exposure to the language and story of Christ in Scripture, may require five years of relational immersion before a decision would even make sense. If you do not have this immersion/context, any decision that is made is prone to be little more than a consumerist decision—it is made based on the perceived immediate benefit. It lasts as long as this perceived benefit remains important. It does not lead to discipleship.

So a true missionary conversion, which I believe missional churches are after, takes a much longer period of time than the kind of conversions most often generated through a megachurch. The megachurch is largely appealing to people who grew up in old forms of church and know the Story but quit going to church many years ago. These "unchurched people" require the old messages to be made more relevant. They need to be "revived" or called back into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There's nothing wrong with that, but we should recognize there are fewer and fewer of these kinds of people left.

These are some arguments that I myself have made in the past.  Knowing, realistically two things: 1) how inefficient mega-churches really are in reaching the lost per dollar spent and 2) how really unconcerned most members of these churches are to reach anyone.  Emerging churches are still too young to measure long term fruit and effectiveness, but it will be interesting to see the longer term effects of churches that spend less money, focus more on community, tend to care more about "holistic transformation", and are committed to individual people over programs.  The percentages of transformed lives to Jesus Lordship and Kingdom per capita and per dollar (though even talking about it that way seems, somehow, wrong) would be very intriguing to see.  So... someone do the study already.

The other thing I find so intriguing is the issue of "who" these churches reach.  My take is that not only mega-churches, but most contemporary evangelical churches are fairly good at reaching those who are part of Christendom... meaning they've been raised with Jesus and the church, and they have been educated in Christianity.  They may be "de-churched" because they were one-time churched, but maybe they never took the step to enter the Kingdom and submit to the Lordship of Jesus.  Those people do need to be reached.  But what I think is being argued in some of what Fitch is saying is that those who are part of the emerging postmodern, post-Christendom culture have very little or no knowledge of Christian theology or of Jesus other than what they learned on the Simpsons, King of the Hill, or in political campaigns.  These folks are a slower burn because they have so much knowledge to gain before they have a clue what they are saying "yes" to.  I've heard Alan Hirsch talking about this at a church planting portion of the RCA's OneThing conference in San Antonio when he said that the "forms" of church we are using today are reaching a certain group of people, but that the culture shifts of post-christendom require new forms of church plants to reach new people who will likely never be reached by our current forms.


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Emergent Converts

admin

I've found the conversation around mega-churches and emergent churches lately quit fascinating. (cf. Fitch's first post, and his redux post] I've heard many people for awhile saying, "the fruit just isn't there with the Emergent Churches."  By fruit, this usually means converts.  So, when David Fitch went after Mark Driscoll and talked about this issue, I found it quit interesting.  Being someone emergent at heart and history (and in some ways theologically, but not others) but also being currently a pastor at a mega-church (where I sometimes fit in, and other times feel like an odd-ball) these conversations are quite intriguing.  I'm particularly interested in numbers 4 and 5 of the 5 points Fitch makes, which I've listed below - this from the Out of UR Blog:  

4. Having said all this, I think that the missional communities that do persist probably have a higher conversion rate than the Driscollesque mega churches. Missional churches are much smaller, so 6 conversions from a group of 25 over ten years would match (or exceed) the percentage growth of a typical mega church. I think it would be interesting to measure how many dollars per conversion are spent in missional churches versus mega churches. It makes me smile knowing missional churches are probably more cost effective when it comes to conversions because we resist spending money on buildings, programs, and “the show.”

5. We must recognize that "missionary conversions" take longer than megachurch conversions. The conversion of a post-Christendom "pagan," who has had little to no exposure to the language and story of Christ in Scripture, may require five years of relational immersion before a decision would even make sense. If you do not have this immersion/context, any decision that is made is prone to be little more than a consumerist decision—it is made based on the perceived immediate benefit. It lasts as long as this perceived benefit remains important. It does not lead to discipleship.

So a true missionary conversion, which I believe missional churches are after, takes a much longer period of time than the kind of conversions most often generated through a megachurch. The megachurch is largely appealing to people who grew up in old forms of church and know the Story but quit going to church many years ago. These "unchurched people" require the old messages to be made more relevant. They need to be "revived" or called back into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There's nothing wrong with that, but we should recognize there are fewer and fewer of these kinds of people left.

These are some arguments that I myself have made in the past.  Knowing, realistically two things: 1) how inefficient mega-churches really are in reaching the lost per dollar spent and 2) how really unconcerned most members of these churches are to reach anyone.  Emerging churches are still too young to measure long term fruit and effectiveness, but it will be interesting to see the longer term effects of churches that spend less money, focus more on community, tend to care more about "holistic transformation", and are committed to individual people over programs.  The percentages of transformed lives to Jesus Lordship and Kingdom per capita and per dollar (though even talking about it that way seems, somehow, wrong) would be very intriguing to see.  So... someone do the study already.

 


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