The Christian Century’s August feature article, “Going Mega: The Trend Towards Bigger Churches,” is an excellent article and not just because author John Dart, their news editor, quotes me numerous times, and likewise quotes my colleague Scott Thumma, with whom I’m writing my next book. What I found striking in the coverage is its rather positive acknowledgment of the expansion of very large churches into the world of mainline churches. His overall point is that “bigness has an appeal among both evangelical and mainline churches”. Dart acknowledges that megachurches tend to be evangelical in tone, but he also observes that mainline megachurches do exist – and are growing in both size and number. He quotes me in noting that the biggest church of every denomination is bigger now than its biggest was 10, 15 or 20 years earlier.
Dart is fair in presenting the pros and cons of a large church. “Worshipers at a megachurch may not know the people seated nearby, but they are offered a plethora of small groups, classes or ministries to join for service and spiritual growth,” he observes. The megachurch surge “already has completely changed the face of American congregational life,” he quotes Scott Thumma to say. “In some sense, megachurches are becoming de facto replacements for denominations and seminaries” by providing resources and training staff more efficiently. They are at the least providing “a thriving alternative,” according to Thumma.
His overall tone is one of accepting and perhaps somewhat embracing the impact of large churches into the theologically broad world of the Christian Century.