Does anyone here attend a so-called Mega Church? Of the Hillsong type - or others around Australia? Normally, they are of the Pentecostal type.
I wanted to start this thread, not to start 'bagging' them - I dont want to 'throw the baby out with the bath water', but to perhaps discuss some of the excesses of Mega Churches - as part of an article I am in the process of writing.
I guess this thread will only resonate with people who have been around some of these churches for a while. I do not want to be overly critical. I just want to discuss openly what, simply, you are 'not allowed' to discuss in these circles.
I don’t believe that ‘Mega-churches’ are bad, or American, or for that matter all the same. Nor do I believe that Pastors of these churches are out for personal gain. I do, however, believe that the reason for the often unacknowledged trail of broken people in these churches is that these Pastors have their eyes on what their colleagues think about them. Dare I say it? The speaking circuit is… lucrative - and I dont mean finance - I am talking about ’success’, kudos, a sense of having been blessed, or the importance of being able to ‘impart’ into others. Its what I call, ‘the leadership fetish’.
The great majority of people sitting in congregations probably haven’t made this connection. All they know is that when a ‘big speaker’ comes to town, they should reach into their pockets for their last crumbled fifty and put it in the bucket. In the name of ‘honour’. Oh, and be happy about it. Otherwise you will lose your 50 bucks AND incur God’s displeasure.
So, that these guys’ heads are somewhere else means they often miss what is happening in their own churches. That is why the ‘little people’ are dismissed in tiny little implication filled character assassinations if they speak out. Or, ‘they are not interested in our vision - only their own agenda’.
This is not true in the great majority of cases I know of. Often, its a personality clash with the leadership.
Otherwise, there are a heck of alot of people out there with their own selfish agendas! I dont have such a low view of people - paradoxically, though, it appears my Pastors do. Oh well, irony is the most delicious fruit of this life.
The most unkind thing I could say, is that its not pretty that people are viewed in such a contemptible way. In extreme cases, members are throw-away people - if they disagree with leadership. And, its convenient to say that it is ‘because of their own selfish agendas’ or some improvised version of that. It takes away the discomfort of having to look at your own actions.
Am I wrong? Probably! I often am - but that is the only explanation I can come up with. Remember, I am talking about my experience, and I would not presume to talk on behalf anybody else. MC’s are localised bodies that are connected with literature, conferences and influences from all sorts of places.
I learned a long time ago not to ask questions. Of course, the language from the pulpit is that ‘we are approachable’. And healthy. But, to face someone so confident and ‘full of the Holy Spirit’, is intimidating. When you start to tip toe around a question, the defences come up, so, you pull out of the question.
I have been in my church 15 years, and these pastors I consider friends. You know them as people, and you dont want to question their motives. I love what Tanya Levin, the author of People in Glass Houses, said. Even though she doesn’t trust Brian Houston, he is still a ‘comforting voice from my youth’. That resonated with me.
Could I share briefly my experiences of being in a leadership team in a mega-church? And by mega-church, I am not saying that we have materialised as one yet. We are about 700 - 1000- but it is definitely a posture, a sensibility, an attitude or a way of doing things. It’s always, ‘When we grow big, we need these systems in place…’
Our Church is definitely not about money. Sure, we preach it - but it is par for the course in a mega-church. I dont mind that at all.
Most disturbing is our model of leadership. There is a tightly ingrained model of leadership which manifests itself at multiple places in our church - across the leadership body, etc. And its this:
- The pastor is right. You must honour him as he is the one who hears from God. And if God wanted you on leadership or to have a say then he would speak to us. We also do not want ‘unsolicited advice’.
An extremely flawed definition of Biblical honour underpins our actions. Associate tells us that ‘Pastor is the best SP in Australia’ and that we cant wait to hear the word this week - and we clap, and we mutter Amen.
And some of us look at each other with that knowing look that says, ‘this is too far gone’ - they really believe this. No, they really do! Is it a cult? No, I dont think so. Its is flawed? Of course - but all organisations are.
You want to shake them and say - love your people and get out of your bubble. But, their model cannot be cracked open. It is tight. And the new people all believe it.
I do hope that my post has not come across as me taking the moral high ground on this. The 'I can see what the Pastor cant’ attitude is counter-productive and certainly not appreciated.
Often, you shrug your shoulders and walk away.
So, please don't take this post as open season on big churches. They have some VERY good things, and some not so good things. I was hoping to connect with people that have niggling questions...