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Megachurches might make easy targets, but they can teach churches of all sizes vital lessons.

It’s easy to take shots at large churches.

Just say “mega” and there can be instant dismissal.

And it’s very true that big isn’t always better, notoriety doesn’t always mean noteworthy, “can’t argue with success” isn’t the same as “know them by their fruit,” famous doesn’t always mean faithful, and starting fast doesn’t always mean finishing well.

But I am convinced that any church, of any size, can be learned from, and that includes large churches.

In fact, the most common critiques of large churches actually reveal 10 of their more significant lessons.

1. Large churches don’t understand the challenge that comes with being small.

Their insights are thus atypical and not transferable to the average church.

The truth is, that most large churches started small, often as church plants, and grew through multiple stages on their way to large-church status. As a result, they have the most gathered wisdom for helping smaller churches break through the traditional growth barriers of 70, 120, 200, 500, 1200 and more.

No one can help you break through those barriers more than a church that has actually done it.

2. Large churches are so fixated on outreach, they have dropped the ball on discipleship.

Most large churches are very concerned with discipleship. They are not just into “numbers” or growth, but spiritual formation.

In many ways, they have been forced to tackle this area with great diligence. They have so many new attendees from such varied backgrounds that they have been forced to be highly intentional about strategic discipleship classes, mentoring programs, Bible studies and “next steps” processes.

As a result, their discipleship offerings are often among the best.

James Emery White James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book is What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

More from James Emery White or visit James Emery at http://www.churchandculture.org/

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  • Radek Chlup

    Dr White your article is spot on. Being part of a now mega church in South Africa for the past 32 years and on staff for 18 of those years, I have heard all of the 10 megachurch myths listed and I am in full agreement with all your answers/explanations.

  • Costa K

    As a pastor of a small church I often hear how “we’ve got it right” whilst the big church up the road has “got it all wrong”.

    Thanks for dispelling a number of these myths.

  • Joe Rhoads

    While I understand that not all megachurches are alike, some of these myths are, in fact, true for some megachurches. (Just as some of the myths regarding small churches, are in fact, true of some small churches.) And to pick up on what Costa K said, I, too, am a pastor of a small church in a small town. And I keep hearing from leaders of megachurches, even on this website, about how to grow, and many of the suggestions will not work in a small town, nor will we see the growth that they assume.

    • Jeremy

      My father in law is the pastor of a church in blue collar rural Oregon (~7,000) people. There are 16 churches in that town!!!!!! Yet he has applied lots of the findings and leadership principals of “Mega” church pastors and has seen God develop a community of almost a 1,000 people on Sunday. Many of these people are serving, recovering from some form of subtance abuse, evangelizing and living a life of holiness and joy. Just because you are in a small town doesn’t mean these leadership principals don’t work. I could be that God has designed you to be a small church leader, there is nothing wrong with that. Its not so much the principals, or the size of your community but the leader God has made you to be.

  • Keith Higginbotham

    I know my view will not probably matter to many, but I must comment. I have been a pastor of both small and large churches. All I can say is, the Lord uses both. I have heard small churches put down large churches in the same manner I have heard large churches put down small. When it all comes down to it, we need not to worry about who is right or who is wrong. Just obey God wherever you are. There is problems and greatness in both. I have recently seen God do something crazy in the church I pastor. I felt as though He was telling me to start Sunday School. Now that is crazy. Ask people to come early and have “Sunday School?” Seriously God? To my surprise, We have more people attend on Sunday School then we did Wednesday night. Then my worship leaders says she feels God wants us to start a choir. Let me remind you, I do not wear suits and neither do I do Choirs. To my surprise the people have come out of the woodwork and joined. Our worship is at an all new high. Out giving and attendance is up. Was it me? NO. Was it the popular thing to do according to all the church growth seminars? No. But, it was what God wanted. I believe in supporting large churches and small. Modern and traditional. Hang in there man or woman of God who is in a large church or a small church. I’m behind you both. God Bless.

    • Maria

      Thank you very much for your comments! As a co-pastor of a small church I seeing God at work every time the people are move with God given ideas! Small or large it is God’s church! Amen!

  • Dalia

    Jesus “told” me to attend a small church because mega churches are……see what happens when you start hearing voices in your head? God spoke…..through the bible. God gave us our senses. You step out of them and start hearing voices that say “God told me”, you’re entering the spirit realm. DANGEROUS! God said to stay alert, be SOBER minded. God spoke to his people through prophets, THEN he spoke to his people through Jesus and the apostles, NOW?..he speaks to us through the bible. Not funny little voices. He works providentially, not though a voice. No way to verify what you say is true. Even though things so work out, still that’s no verification. Charismatics are everywhere: seeing visions, hearing voices, talking gibberish. NUTSO!!!

    • thecatalyst1

      I completely understand what you are saying. But the prophets didn’t have other prophets to tell them what God said. Throughout scripture we see where god has VERBALLY spoken to His people. I do agree that whatever God has “spoken” should align with what is already in scripture. But to say that He does not speak at all is a bit absurd. There needs to be a balance, I will contest for that, but I will not throw out that God speaks directly to His people. Grace and Peace.

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