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My First Mega Church Experience

I am currently taking a graduate class in Spiritual Formation and we were given the assignment of attending a church outside our spiritual context and then report on our experience. This is a look at some of my thoughts.

In an attempt to not offend anyone, I will not use the name of the congregation that I attended for this assignment.

My family and I attended a local, non denominational, mega church in the area that has around 7000 members. I have previously been a member of a church that had 1000 members, but was not prepared for what I experienced that night. The congregation was big enough to support three separate worship services. We attended the Saturday night service. Their auditorium seated approximately 2300 people. It was very encouraging to see that very few seats were empty. We were met at the door by greeters carrying very professionally designed programs for the service. There were ushers at the end of every row to insure we found the right place to sit. I was a bit bothered by the fact that the announcements that appeared on the big screen proudly stated “No cell phones or children allowed in worship.” I am sure that there was a good reason behind the message, but as a visitor it was a big turn off.

The worship band came on stage exactly at 5 p.m. The music played was well performed, totally focused on the theme of the day, and pleasing to listen to. This was quite different from my spiritual context, but I adjusted quickly. There was a light show accompanying the music with some videos playing to help set the mood. It was an experience to see people raising their hands in praise and singing along with the band. It was great to see people actively participating in worship, but it did not feel like worship at all. I believe I felt that way because it did not feel personal. I did not feel the communion of spirit with those I participated with because I felt like just another face in the crowd. I felt like something was missing and I could not put my finger on it.

The minister came up about 20 minutes into the lesson and began his sermon. Being a minister I have a habit of evaluating the speaker. I am sure the members of my church do this every week! I sat and listened for about 20 minutes and not one time was any Scripture being used in the lesson. The lesson was obviously based in Scripture, but God’s Word was nowhere to be found. It took until the last 10 minutes of the lesson before Scripture was used. This made me very uncomfortable. It was also hard not to focus on the fact that the minister looked as if he was reading the message to the crowd. I know that each speaker has their own style, but it did not look as if he was prepared to speak to the congregation that night. It did not seem like his material because he was not familiar with it at all. This was disappointing, but coming to worship is not all about the preacher now is it.

After the sermon we were led in song by the worship band, took up collection, and then were sent on home. There was no time given for responses to people who needed prayer. If someone wanted to be baptized they would have to wait till their monthly baptism service. If you were interested in communion you had to wait 2-3 months until the next communion service.

Overall I did enjoy my time there, but quickly realized the blessings of a smaller fellowship. The music was excellent if compared to a Christian concert, but the performance took away the simplicity of just listening to each other sing out.

I did learn that all churches are there for a purpose. They are obviously meeting a need in their community or they would not have that size of membership. People are being fulfilled in some manner or they would not return. A part of our spiritual formation is to recognize where God has called us to serve. I thank Him for calling me to my particular fellowship and am thankful for this assignment because it helped me to see how others are approaching God also.

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Categories: church
  1. Emily
    March 20, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    I have somehow, involuntarily, developed a habit of evaluating my congregation’s weekly practices through the eyes of a visitor.Most of the time I am afraid they will not understand our true intentions, which I know to be pure, but have a tendency to come across as self-righteous and stringent.
    But I stand firm that it is not the mission of the church to tell people what they want to hear or to enable the lost to maintain that warm fuzzy feeling that “everything is going to be ok”. Sometimes you have to tell people what they are afraid to hear; what they do NOT want to hear. It does no good to ‘fulfill’ people with false prophecy. If we cannot be fulfilled by the pure unadulterated word of God, then we are not really looking for Him at all.

  2. Gallagher
    March 22, 2007 at 3:00 am

    Mike,

    Very Interesting look at teh Mega-Church service and even the purpose behind them. My wife and I wanted to go down the road to one near our house and another in teh same town where I preach, but instead I have watched there services online. They are similar to your description.

    After watching the services, I had the same thoughts you did.

    Great writing.

  3. Michelle
    March 22, 2007 at 4:14 am

    Nice thoughts, my friend. May I say once again how much I like the name of your blog. 🙂 Please tell Dana and loud shoes Mikayla “hola” for me!

  4. Bob Bliss
    March 23, 2007 at 12:29 am

    Mike,
    Are you near Conestoga Valley Church of Christ? Do you know Jeff Werkheiser the preacher? If so say hi for me (I’m Bob Bliss). I preached at the Tabernacle Church of Christ in Tabernacle, NJ for almost 10 years. I’m in Mount Dora, FL currently. Anyway, found your blog through Brian Nicklaus’, which I read daily. God bless you in your work. Preach the Word!

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