Yesterday Albert Mohler published an article at his website entitled, “Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?” The article–or at least its title–inspired megachurch pastor Rick Warren to tweet, “@albertmohler A TITLE questioning 1000s of churches’ orthodoxy due to size is unChristlike. U need to apologize to pastors Al.”
Despite the knee-jerk reaction it elicited from Warren, Mohler’s article is more a warning to megachurches than an indictment. The warning is in large part inspired by an anecdote from an Atlanta church pastored by Andy Stanley. In his article, Mohler recounts a sermon Stanley preached a few weeks ago entitled “When Gracie Met Truthy.” To see the full story recounted you’ll have to read Mohler’s article, but to summarize, in Stanley’s sermon he tells the story of a couple from his church that divorced when the wife found out her husband was involved in a sexual relatioship with another man. Upon divorcing, the wife insisted that her ex-husband and his gay partner move to another congregation. They did, but only to another campus of Stanley’s church where they began serving in a hospitality ministry. But then Stanley found out that the ex-husband’s gay partner was still married. Upon this revelation, Stanley told them that they couldn’t continue serving in the hospitality ministry, not because of their homosexuality, but because the partner was committing adultery by remaining married. The sinfulness of homosexuality was never addressed.
The title of Mohler’s article harkens back to the liberalism movement, which sought to save the church from itself and keep Christianity relevant to a modernist culture. To do so it stripped the Bible of inerrancy, Christianity of much of its supernaturalism, and consequently, the gospel of its power. The fear with the megachurch is that it will use its influence in a similar way–in Stanley’s case, to keep Christianity relevant to our society by compromising on issues the Bible is clear about, like homosexuality.
The anecdote serves as a warning to megachurches that their tremendous size means they have tremendous influence both in Christian culture and in society at large. It’s the message of Luke 12:48–“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”
According to Wikipedia, a megachurch is a church which has 2,000 or more attendees at its weekly services. With this size becomes increased visibility. Often the pastors of these churches are well known beyond their churches and communities. Many of these might be considered celebrity pastors. Thanks to the internet, these men have an influence beyond their own congregations. When a media wants a quote from an Evangelical leader on a particular story that’s just occurred, more often than not they’re going to look to the large churches in their community to find such a leader. This means that church and that pastor now have an audience with the mainstream culture they wouldn’t ordinarily have. Fidelity to Scripture and to the gospel are imperative.
The megachurch certainly has a place within Christ’s church. It is able to provide ministries, serve God’s people, and reach the world for Christ in a way many smaller churches can’t. Their visibility gives them a great platform from which to proclaim the gospel. Their financial resources allow them to fund ministries and missions that may otherwise be unavailable. And their large congregation represents a whole host of Christ’s servants ready to serve his Church and their community.
Mohler’s article is a warning to megachurches and to those of us who attend them that we have a great responsibility to represent Christ to the world and to one another. No Pastor Warren, Mohler’s article wasn’t an indictment of megachurches. Not yet, anyway.