I love megachurches.
After attending over 100 churches this last year through an internship, I have seen the entire spectrum—large, small, denominational and non-denominational, invested or disinterested. Out of all of them, the most engaged congregations I saw were the ones at megachurches.
Before I go any farther, I do believe that your megachurch experience will depend on the church (as it would in any size church). There are some churches that do not get anything right and others that seem to do a phenomenal job.
I do believe there are benefits to small churches; you can get to know everybody on a personal level—it forces you to be involved. There are also many downsides to small churches—everybody knows everything about everybody else, the outreach may not be as great and the resources tend to be lacking.
After growing up in the largest megachurch in Wisconsin, Elmbrook Church, and regularly attending the second largest megachurch in America, North Point Community Church, I have become quite accustomed to the “megachurch life.”
Megachurches, especially Northpoint and Elmbrook, are focused on community—ways to make the big church seem smaller. They make sure that small groups are emphasized, the whole point is to come together and build each other up in a way that we cannot do ourselves.
Along with that, there is always something different to try. If you do not get along with your small group or it is not the right study for you, there are always other options. Large churches are create environments for people to get involved. There are always more people, always more groups, always more studies—because let’s face it, church is not a one-size fits all.
In fact, North Point does this better than any other church I have attended. Senior pastor of North Point Andy Stanley writes in his book Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend, “We must remove every possible obstacle from the path of the disinterested, suspicious, here-against-my-will, would-rather-be-somewhere-else, unchurched guests. The parking lot, hallways, auditorium, and stage must be obstacle-free zones.”
The point of church is not to be a place where all the churched come to be a clique or unwelcoming. It is to engage with the people around them and lead people to a relationship with Christ. More often than not, the small churches I visited during my internship were the most closed-off or unwelcoming, while the megachurches welcomed, loved, and engaged with us.
Many churches are designed to be a place where Christians come to grow and only Christians come. It is a place where “reaching out to the community” is a phrase that is thrown around but never actually practiced. Yet, the megachurches I am familiar with engage with the world in a way I have seen nowhere else.
Two weeks ago, the annual missions’ festival at Elmbrook ended with donation plea for the mission work that is being done through the church. In a single weekend, $1.4 million was raised through only 800 families.
In an effort to be a partner, instead of a competitor, North Point researched and chose to invest in organizations that are doing things well in their area of expertise. To support these organizations, they launched a yearly campaign called “Be Rich,” based off of 1 Timothy 6:18: “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
Over the last 10 years, the campaign has raised over $23 million (over $5 million in 2015). The campaign did not end there as 106,985 gifts were given through Operation Christmas Child, 221,759 hours were served by the congregation, and 927,288 pounds of food were donated.
I don’t know about you, but for me this is just a display of extraordinary generosity that cannot be matched.
In my mind, a megachurch is not a display of funds, it is the body of Christ coming together in one place. Regardless of background, the community can come together and worship because of the recognized common goal. The megachurch shows that the Body of Christ is capable of joining together, as a body, in a recognition of what truly matters. It offers a place of reconciliation, of unity, as a space dedicated to showing the love of God. In my mind, that is a beautiful place.
—Allie Alexy, Opinion Editor