Growing up I heard much criticism toward TV evangelists. Some of it was well earned. However, I became judgmental toward all men spouting Scripture on TV. “All they want is money.” “They’re just after fame.” These were the comments I often heard and grew to believe. I would mock the comb marks in their Brylcreem-greased hair, fancy suits, gleaming white shoes, and singsong voices as I wondered how people could be suckered into such fanfare. Didn’t they read their Bibles?
Later in my development, I noticed a shift in the types of people showing up through the airwaves in our living room. This new brand of TV evangelists seemed more like the guys I heard preach at my church every Sunday. They didn’t focus on asking for money, but I knew air time was valuable and certainly not free.
Nowadays, you can find just about any faith tribe represented on television– even yours. There are still some I can’t bear listening to for more than half a minute, but then there are others that speak truth – to millions.
Criticism is a tricky thing. It holds the power to either injure or correct. On the positive side, criticism measures value and helps ensure excellence. On the other hand, unjust or ill-informed criticism can throw a monkey wrench into the best well-oiled machine.
I’ve heard the same kind of all-encompassing criticism I once held for all TV evangelists aimed today toward mega-churches. To be totally honest, I used to throw all churches boasting thousands of members into the same pot. But then I got to know one.
I am not suggesting that you abandon your home church to become part of a humongous church unless you’ve spent time in the Word and feel the Spirit leading you there. But what I would like to do is show you that there may be more substance to some mega-churches than you think. The church I’ve come to know has shown me the errors in my criticism.
At this point in our national turmoil, it might be a good idea to join hands with as many God-believing, Jesus-following people we can find. If not, we just might lose the biggest game of Red Rover the world has ever witnessed. Satan is poised and ready to bring destruction right over.
No matter the size of the church, corporate worship is still more about the heart you bring than what you receive. Does your heart line up with the traditions, vision, and expressions of love shown in your church? If so, great! If not, pray for the Spirit’s help. His love never fails.
I’m not trying to convince you that one way is better than another; I only want to show you some things I learned so we can show some love for each other. I’ve made this a little longer than I intended, but here are the things I’ve learned about one particular mega-church:
- They don’t ask for money. Leaders expect members to give in response to the love that God’s shown them. Leaders are transparent with their stewardship and have a built-in system of checks and balances. The love shown to others around the world motivates the church to give more and more. As a result, ALL ministry efforts, administration, and facilities are paid for in cash – no loans necessary.
- They aren’t interested in fame. In fact, one of the most-quoted verses I hear is Psalm 115:1 “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name give glory because of your faithful love, because of your truth.” Every person setting foot on stage, even in the children’s area, is met with a posted reminder stating, “It is a privilege to be on this stage.” Every handclap and voice of praise is offered to celebrate God’s performance, not the performance of any leader.
- A hand raised in praise is a personal matter. If or how it’s raised is up to you. I found that when I stopped watching those around me and kept my eyes fixed on Jesus, my hands automatically found their way in the air. Because that was not part of my tradition growing up, it took a while for that to happen in public, even though I had done it privately for years. It is most definitely not for show. I’ve found it to be a natural, built-in, joyful response – ever bit as passionate as witnessing a winning touchdown or home run.
- The Bible and prayer are fundamentally important. Reading the Bible and spending time in prayer is both modeled and expected. Members are encouraged to commit to a Bible reading plan and stick to it. Scripture and prayer are incorporated into every small group meeting or act of service. Prayer covers every event and each participant before, during, and afterward.
So, if you attend a mega-church and find yourself negatively criticizing the traditional church OR if you attend a traditional church and criticize the mega-church, I can only say – “STOP IT!” Now, listen to a piece of Jesus’ heartfelt prayer for you and me. He’s coming back soon you know!
“I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.” – Jesus (John 17:20-22, CSB)