Kevin’s Conversations: How Big Is Too Big?

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48 Responses

  1. Jtk says:

    The man who ministered to me said he would never have a megachurch because he would send out churches when his got big. And he has done that.

    I wonder if there are many men like that.

    Second, they median church is is around 60 people. I bet many of us wouldn’t want to start finger pointing at church over 60 people.

    Third,
    Why is this our business?

    In YOUR world, does it seem more people are supportive of churches and fellow believers to a FAULT or critical of other churches to a FAULT?

    It’s 90/10 in favor of critical from where I, the criticized sit. And it was that number before people were guilty of calumny about me.

  2. Michael says:

    You probably weren’t asking about my world.. 🙂

  3. Em ... again says:

    the nation is fast moving into an elitism mentality – a mindset that, if you’re competent, it just naturally follows that you’ll be financially prosperous… with that comes a duty to baby-sit the rest of us, who obviously aren’t so bright… very civilized caste system
    sadly, without even realizing it, much church leadership has bought into this and that’s what we see on TV… at least i hope they don’t realize it… as it is a very insidious evil – IMNSHO

  4. Kevin H says:

    JTK,

    In my “online” world, I find more people critical to a fault rather than supportive to a fault. In my “flesh and blood” world, I find it more so the other way around.

    Why is this our business? Without sitting down and thinking through a thorough answer, my first thought is that God calls us to be concerned with truth and righteousness. Our immediate concern in this regards should be with ourselves and those within our circles and then expand out more generally from there. However, the influence of Christian celebrity and mega-churches in our world today will even often have some effect on those within our circles, if not even on ourselves sometimes. And so it can become our business before we even leave our circles into the more general.

  5. Em ... again says:

    KevinH, this article is very thoughtful and fair as i read it … thank you for something to think on again

  6. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Well I wouldn’t mind if my church were more populated 🙂

  7. Owen says:

    Great piece, Kevin. Having never been a Pastor myself, I can only imagine the difficulty in retaining one’s humility and Christ-centeredness under the pressures of growing fame and numbers.
    I can’t think of any TV preachers I have watched more than once. IMO it doesn’t seem right to fit the message into a certain time frame, around commercial breaks, etc… , but this is just my (rather uninformed) opinion. I find myself echoing the sentiments of a song by Carson Cole – “Hollywood and God don’t go.”

  8. Kevin H says:

    Thanks, Em & Owen.

    This article wasn’t meant to be an indictment of any kind. Rather it was simply an extension of my own thoughts when I was thinking about why I don’t like many of these tv preachers. Just trying to give us something to think about that hopefully can be beneficial in some sense.

  9. EricL says:

    A good friend of mine is a volunteer Spanish pastor at a well-known mega-church that most readers at PP would know. My friend took me on a tour of its multi-story main office complex and I met lots of friendly and committed folks there. They do some impressive ministry and the facilities are first-rate.

    But the lead pastor doesn’t have an office there anymore. Too many crazies trying to reach him. He now has his place in a separate office away from the main building. His place is unmarked and isn’t even on the sprawling church campus so that those crazies can’t easily find him. He also has bodyguards escorting him every Sunday. I would not want that kind of a life, no matter how much fame and fortune came with it.

    Somehow, that isn’t “church” for me.

  10. Mr Jesperson says:

    Kevin nails it again! I will keep saying this, if I were writing for this blog, I should be writing stuff like you have been. You regulars know that I am a neo-iconoclast with the modern day icons being celebrity status. The Word warns us against having an attitude of wanting to please men. John the Baptist is a role model who said “He must increase, I must decrease.” There is good leadership, but it is hard to find. I liked a couple of chapters in Rick Joyners book called “the Path” where he talked about his attitude towards leadership. Is was not about obtaining a power base that you can rule on your own throne from for the rest of your life. That is a worldly attitude towards leadership. It is about accomplishing a task, and then stepping aside when that task is completed so that you do not get in the way of the real head who is Jesus. Following Him costs us things. True shepherds pay a price and lay their lives down for the sheep, instead of creating a throne from which they rule and abuse the sheep.
    I think that for many leaders there comes a moment of crisis where the right thing to do is to say “no” to an opportunity for more money and fame. They do the opposite and then Satan has a foothold to work his corrupting influence. I admire men who walk away from success when God tells them to. My pastor is a living example of that. In the 90’s his church was one of the biggest in our town. God challenged him to make changes that would lead to many people leaving and going elsewhere. He followed God instead of trying to keep his church BIG, it was honestly becoming a zoo of sorts with increasing gossip and affairs inside the body. He now preaches to a group between 3 – 5 dozen each week. He spends most of his time evangelizing instead of trying to keep all the big church plates (programs) spinning so they do not fall off and break.
    Kevin, there is only one thing that I do not currently agree with that you said. 10 years ago I would, but more recently I had to take a closer look at Billy Graham. He is one of the pioneers of the deceptive practice called “ghostwriting” which has now become the norm for celebrities looking for more Mammon. I have an old book here from the 70’s that my mother purchased new way back then. In it Billy gave zero credit to anyone else who worked on the book. The reality was that Billy was way too busy with his BIG crusades to have time for this tedious and time consuming chore. He hired writers and payed them very modest sums of money to write the books that ended up making him a millionaire. I think Billy was shrewder than KP Yohannan in being able to come up with a profit making scheme that would not be viewed by us as scandalous. I think it is our view of ghostwriting that is in error here. Billy gave no one credit, not even his secretary that must have spent many hours typing up and re-typing the manuscripts. before the day of wordprocessors. Billy is now worth an estimated $25 million from millions of books sold where the authorship is technically what is called a lie. He has had a personal nurse and lives in luxury to a ripe old age. I wonder how many of the actual ghostwriters have died in some awful low budget nursing home because they did not receive due wages for their actual work? Billy used a deceptive tool to take advantage of staff members with no fame to make himself rich. God has been having me revisit my old idols with “respectable” reputations, including Glenn Kaiser as I wrote about last night. Jesus is truly in a class by Himself. He handled every temptation well. We all fail with at least some of them that come to us.

  11. Michael says:

    Mr. Jesperson,

    If you were writing for this blog and affirmed Rick Joyner…you wouldn’t be writing for this blog ever again.

  12. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I think if a pastor is well known outside of his own ministerial zone, he probably is no longer a pastor. He may be a speaker – a teacher – a motivator, but unless he is down in the dirt with his congregation, he really isn’t a pastor.

  13. Kevin H says:

    Mr. Jesperson,

    I am unaware of charges that Billy Graham regularly used ghostwriters for his books, or was one of the pioneers of such. I am aware it is a problem in the Christian publishing industry. I knew Graham’s last couple books were probably not written much at all by him due to his deteriorating health and faculties. But I wasn’t holding that against him as I wouldn’t know how much he may be getting taken advantage of by those around him in his limited state.

  14. Em ... again says:

    #12 – exactly right ! ! ! ! ! ! we might do well to examine some of the terms that we apply … doesn’t pastor imply a shepherd? to call some of these men pastors doesn’t fit their job description in my book … some teachers, some evangelists and some opportunists, too

  15. Em ... again says:

    gotta agree with and second the words of KevinH @ 13 also

  16. fyi says:

    Mr. J @10; you don’t have time to write for any blog. You are way too busy judging everybody else. Lighten up.

  17. Mr Jesperson says:

    #13. Apparently you have not heard about the Mel White scandal. He is a ghostwriter for Billy and some other prosperity gospel celebs too. He came out of the closet and it caused a big stir when people found out he was writing for Billy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_White I do not fault anyone here of being ignorant of the facts, or of not thinking things threw about ghostwriting. These have been recent things for me. I am trying to grow in my understanding of truth and my agreement with things Jesus plainly said. Things like “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. All else is from the evil one.” I wrote a book with my name on it. Many best selling books in the Christian market have a lie on the cover for the authors name. Is this good Orthopraxy? Really?

  18. Michael says:

    I don’t think all “ghostwriting” is created equal…and in any case,my guess is that whoever worked on Grahams books was compensated for it.

  19. Mr Jesperson says:

    #13. Thanks for letting me know where I stand. Not that I have ever offered to write for anyone’s blog that I remember.

  20. Michael says:

    Mr. Jesperson,

    I have to be highly amused at someone who rips Billy Graham and affirms Rick Joyner.

    We would reverse that…and have merrily ripped Joyner and would do so again if need be.

  21. Jean says:

    Thank you Kevin for a very good article.

  22. Michael says:

    I’m with MLD at #12…

  23. Jean says:

    How many people think a pastor ought to know the names of his communing members?

    I will start by saying that I do, and believe that such a measure might be an appropriate guideline for the ratio of pastors to members in a healthy congregation.

  24. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    We wear name tags to make it easy on him 🙂 – well we wear them so I can remember names.

    I think a pastor should be able to make hospital visits and visits to shut ins. He doesn’t have to do all of them and perhaps not even most of them – but that it is a part of his regular duties.

    David Jeremiah may be a great teacher, but do you think he makes regular visits?

  25. Michael says:

    Jean,

    I would concur…at the very least,there should be enough pastors on staff that everyone is known.

  26. Al says:

    Big is fine. But the bigger you get, according to Jesus, the more you should give away and help others aka “Do not do things as the World does….”

    Yet, Professional Corporation Church Pastors do things EXACTLY as the World does…the bigger the are, the more they make…the more they take.

    I’m looking at you Franklin Graham, Billy Graham, Greg Laurie, Raul Ries, Skip Heitzig (that recent “It’s all about me, Skip Heitzig!” video is sickening, Pulp Cult-of-Personality Church).

  27. Captain Kevin says:

    Good stuff, Kevin H. Occasionally, I will watch Charles Stanley, but that’s about it. (For those with plankeye, I’m aware that he has issues too. So do you… so do I.) In a previous era, I used to like to watch Lloyd Ogilvie on Sundays as I was getting ready to go to church.

  28. Michael says:

    One of the stories that keeps me going is that of a man I met a few years ago.
    He was elderly and wouldn’t live long after we met.

    He had been a loyal member of a mega church for many years and a loyal financial supporter as well.

    He came down with heart disease and through many hospital stays waited for the pastor he supported to come visit.

    It never happened.

    Thankfully, he read the PhxP exposes of that scoundrel, left the church and found real pastoral help and fellowship elsewhere.

    Made that whole mess worth it to me…

  29. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Al, Jesus wasn’t telling churches to give away – he was talking to you and me.
    If you have a 401K, perhaps you are not giving away enough.

  30. Al says:

    MLD, I think it’s a both….but especially a true principle in the “church” and “pastor” roles/offices or what purpose was there in Jesus telling his Disciples who were in leadership to not do Leadership as the World does?

  31. Captain Kevin says:

    It’s sad to watch a pastor fall into this. Saw it first hand as an intern. The security guards. All the assistants required to spend so many hours and take care of so much, while the senior waltzes in and out a couple times per week. The only office in the building with a keypad on the door. Telling assistants that if their wives are not all in, they have mental issues and should divorce them for the sake of the work. 1000’s of people leaving over the last 4 years or so, including long-time leaders. At one point, in my ignorance, I was on a path to become an assistant pastor at this church. Thank God He opened my eyes.

  32. Al says:

    Michael, THAT is a great story.

  33. Nonnie says:

    “Telling assistants that if their wives are not all in, they have mental issues and should divorce them for the sake of the work.”

    A pastor told this to his assistants? I find that appalling! Absolutely horrible.

    God bless the men who choose to honour the Lord and love their wife, rather than serve that tyrant.

  34. Em ... again says:

    i am so glad that this topic is being discussed… wouldn’t it be wonderful if some pastors would read and wake up?
    i can tell a story… a distant cousin was adopted by her grandparents – the judge made a requirement of the adoption that the child be be regularly in Sunday School throughout her childhood (1940s San Francisco area)… as the girl reached her teens her grandmother became ill and was dying, the young girl called the church that she’d attended all these years and asked that the pastor visit her grandmother – he would not do so and she called other protestant churches in the area with the same request and the same result – in desperation, she finally called the Roman Catholic and the priest came immediately, tenderly witnessed to the dying woman of the saving grace of Christ, heard her confession and assured her granddaughter that she’d see her grandmother in heaven… only God knows for certain if that girl did so (she died last year)… but the comfort lasted her whole life
    so the problem isn’t new, but what is wrong with us? if someone is dying and the pastor is too busy? what is wrong with us?

  35. EricL says:

    Em @34, that was such a sad story until you got to the priest. I’m glad someone responded with compassion.

    How badly we need an awakening, Lord.

  36. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I wonder if there is any direct link between churches that pray for members & families (or anyone put on a prayer card) by name during the service and those who don’t.

    At our church, they have prayer requests that get called into the office or that teachers and parents bring in either during chapel or just in the day. These along with the ones folks fill out Sunday morning all get prayed for by name during the prayers at the altar.

    Monday morning an email goes out to all members of who was on the prayer list. During the week any add ons or emergency prayers get emailed to the congregation.

    I can’t say I has never in a non liturgical church that prayed for people by name – but I don’t think I have been

  37. David says:

    I suppose that if I went through the TBN/Daystar/GodTV lineups I could find a person or two I thought seemed out of place amongst the nonsense.

    It was profoundly depressing to see Canon Andrew White sit on TV with Benny Hinn and blame the devil for the GodTV founder running off with another woman. It was the network that let Todd Bentley’s crapfest go on for weeks while he was having an affair, and let him back on TV as if nothing had happened. Shame on Canon White for giving credence to the hucksters and philanderers.

    As for the rest of us, I once said my favorite worship leader was the mother of 6 who played piano in our small church. My favorite TV Preacher was a local man who preached at 11am on the local TV station, providing a service for shut-ins and those otherwise unable to go. The church does small good. Even church denominations that are huge know that the small churches of 100-300 tend to make up a large slot of their people.

    The Christian Celebrity circuit will continue. There will be shining examples. Still, Marshall McLuhan was right: If the medium is the message. Big and showy will always trump patient and kind.

  38. Em ... again says:

    in fairness, i should say that over the years, Presbyterian (assistant pastor called regularly to sit and pray with my dying Holiness affiliated grandfather), Baptist, EUB (what a wonderful group of country folk) all had the hearts of servants and were there when needed

  39. Em ... again says:

    what is needed, perhaps, are local one camera TV low signal set-ups that broadcast to the immediate area (didn’t TBN start out that way?) … woops, i forgot that’s not possible anymore now the TV isn’t picked up by the antenna on your roof – free television? never happen … there’s always radio 🙂

  40. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    em,
    “i forgot that’s not possible anymore now the TV isn’t picked up by the antenna on your roof – free television? never happen … there’s always radio ”

    I have antenna TV – I cut the cable cord a year ago. I probably get 100 over the air broadcast channels in HD. I don’t even have a roof antenna – just a pad about twice the size of a mouse pad.

  41. Randy Davis says:

    I don’t understand seeking fame and fortune in the ministry. Jesus said if you want to be the greatest, become the least among you. But why do some pastors have such a problem with fame? Is it not all of the those who worship the pastor instead of God? A pastor has many roles, but being God is not one of them.

    Ok, I do understand the desire to be recognized. Most pastors go through a phase where we need to be recognized as doing something important, making a mark on the church, a full expression of the call that God gives us. The pastorate is a lonely call. Working on sermons is a lonely experience. Sitting with the dying is lonely and uncomfortable. (because it reminds us of our own mortality) And presiding over a growing church feels a lot better than a declining one. Since most churches are in decline, well, growing churches, mega pastors are heroes of the faith. See, the pastoral sense of smallness and relative unimportance can be devastating. As has been seen in this discussion, everyone thinks they know what a pastor ought to do, except the pastor. Everyone can do the job, right?

    Having served as a pastor for over 30 years, I can tell you that most pastors get nothing but grief from their churches, not fame. What most church members seem to forget is that, according to Peter, we are called to be a nation of priests–church members are called to be a nation of priests, priests mediating Christ to the world, and mediating Christ to each other. So, if a pastor cannot get to the hospital before someone dies, it is probably because someone is complaining to him about the colors of the flowers last week. And what is more shameful, if someone dies alone before the pastor can get there, is if no church member spent time with the dying being a priest to a brother or sister.

    I write this because I sometimes think we forget what a real church is. It is supposed to be a gathering of the Body of Christ to worship, to love, where the pastor is called to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (Eph. 4:12-13 ESV)” Church is where we become more like Christ. And it is the place where become equipped to do the work of the kingdom–we sometimes forget that part.

    My personal opinion is that churches can be too big to do this important work. The mega church is a modern phenomenon. The Jerusalem church had over 5000 converts but they met house to house. It seems obvious that they met in smaller congregations with pastors, leaders and members who were priests to each other–they shared what the had.

    Large churches have to work very hard to maintain that atmosphere where we are priests to each other. As Michael said, there needs to be enough pastors so that everyone is known.

    But, unfortunately, I think two realities are going to happen. The average church is going to die. It will be forced out by zoning laws, new tax laws. The members will not be able to pay the electric bill or a pastor. So, Christians will either retreat into mega churches while they still have the money or, the will become house churches. Either way, we are to be about the business of being “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet. 2:9 ESV)

  42. Judy says:

    When I look at all the TV preachers, there are a few that I think are ok, but I do find one thing missing in this generation of preachers. There seems to be very little talk about evil, evil men, or the likes. By contrast I was listing to some J. Vernon McGee a few weeks ago and he talked freely about evil men, who they were, what they did (I don’t remember where in the Bible he was talking about), but he had no problem talking about evil and saying that we have evil men today.

    You don’t hear much about it anymore. Or sin. At least not in any depth that I can find. And if you’re going to preach all the warm and fuzzy stuff, and the easy stuff, you might as well jump in and preach about the darker stuff.

    The other thing is, I believe this generation of preachers, to a large degree, preach without authority. What I mean by that is that they preach, but there is not the sense that they just sat with Jesus and are compelled to share what He told them to share with the people. Maybe that has to do with sitting at the feet of God to write a sermon, I don’t know. I’m not a preacher. But the comment men had about the disciples who were with Jesus is that they spoke with authority, and that sense of knowing in their deepest selves that what they were saying was true. They could argue the truth with conviction and authority and it stumped people.

    I am listening hard to find that voice of authority in our world and I am hard pressed to find it on the airwaves.

  43. surfer51 says:

    The Bible specifically speaks about the qualifications for those who will lead a congregation of people.

    These qualifications have been the same for almost 2,000 years. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of these qualifications as the “senior pastor” of the Church.

    Love the picture on your post Kevin.

    A pastor must have financial integrity — not greedy for gain (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Peter 5:3).

    A pastor is to be upright in his financial dealings and not accused of pursuing money over the kingdom of God.

    A pastor must be holy (Titus 1:8). His life is devoted wholeheartedly to Jesus externally and internally.

    It comes down to the heart or core of a man.

    He either has integrity and loves Jesus or he compromises and gives in to the flesh and the desires of the flesh.

    One Calvary Chapel pastor who has been mentioned here numerous times was an incredible teacher of the Word in his early days.

    He had one of the fastest growing churches in America at one time because he was a good pastor.

    The money started rolling in and he started gaining recognition.

    Apparently these days finds him caught up in some bad associations and he himself has revealed by his actions that he values money and fame.

    Corruption had set in.

    The picture, Kevin, on your post could even be a spiritual xray of the corrupted pastor’s heart’s interior.

    He uses his charismatic gifting in the Lord to draw in the bucks!

    John the baptist, the son of the high priest, had the right by birth to follow in his earthly father’s footsteps.

    He could have had position, fine clothing, great compensation package and recognition.

    But he obeyed God and declined his birthright to dwell in the wilderness like a nobody.

    And yet everyone went out to hear him speak because he was a voice crying out in the wilderness.

    John the baptist our role model as men of God.

    What did Almighty God think about John?

    He said:
    “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

    (Matthew 11:11)

    God’s definition of greatness is in direct opposition of some of those in ministry who strive for recognition.

    Some pastors life style is in direct opposition to the life and attitude modeled by John the Baptist.

    John turned his back on power of position and served God on God’s terms.

    I once gave a donation to a pastor whom I admired.

    He was having some financial trials at the moment.

    I had some cash stockpiled in my PayPal account at the moment so it was not really a sacrifice or anything on my part, it was no big deal.

    A day or so later the pastor emailed me telling me thank you for the gift.

    And then he went on to inform me that thanks to my gift some children now had hats and warm gloves.

    It was humbling to see this man’s heart.

    In his own hour of need he still could think of the needs of others over his own!

    This man is a part of this on line community here and truly fits the qualifications of pastor when it comes to integrity of the heart.

  44. Em ... again says:

    #40-yes, the advantages of living in the big city? if not, how do i get that?

  45. Em ... again says:

    Judy, i hear you… i think you’re onto something… there was authority, but still no arrogance… somehow those men studied enough to know God, to fear Him and yet fully trust in His goodness and grace, too

  46. Babylon's Dread says:

    I believe the first celebrity preacher in America was George Whitefield. So the culture of celebrity has always been in our Christian religion.

  47. Eric says:

    There are good megachurches and not so good ones, but the thing that makes me sad about their existence is this: If instead of one big church that people drove a long way to attend, they were part of a smaller local one, there would be lots of churches stronger and able to reach their neighbourhoods more effectively.

    There is a place for the occasional mega gathering. Hence the one cathedral per diocese in some traditions. There is a place for lots of people hearing teaching for a gifted teacher. It is also worth looking honestly about why lots of people like the mega more than the church around the corner.

    I am convinced that most megachurch leaders want to work for God’s kingdom and not just their own. But most ministers only see their own work, see ministry under their own roof as the default place for any ministry, and don’t think about the bigger picture.

    There are brave churches that send their members out to join other churches. I was part of such a group. I am an advocate of such moves and thinking about how the people and resources of the whole Church can best be deployed.

    We have to play it where it lies; structures have been built and we make the most of them. But the large and growing church who is thinking about an expensive upsizing of their building – they are the ones who I would specifically want to remind of a parable.

    Imagine a farmer who had a bumper crop, put all the grain away in his barn and said “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” And God wasn’t happy – the man had been rich but not rich towards God.

    That sounds like the story Jesus told in Luke 12. The story could have been told as briefly as this, and it would certainly ring true. But there’s one other detail that was in the parable. The man had insufficient storage space so he said he would pull down his barns and build bigger ones. That is an extra cost. He should have given away his excess, and if he’d had a lean year thereafter someone in the community he’d blessed may have been able to bless him in return. I hope that’s not too long a bow of interpretation.

    Likewise, I say to the church that wants to build, to accommodate their growing flock, and in the faith that the flock will continue to grow (and be able to pay for it), think very carefully. Most of the growth is probably transfers in, and there will one day be transfers out. If the whole Church in your area has empty buildings or weak congregations needing strengthening, send some of your people out, taking the chance to do so as strategically as possible. If your numbers drop, God can bring some back again.

  48. Kevin H says:

    Lots of good discussion here. Thanks everyone.

    Surfer: You can thank Michael for the picture on this post. He’s the one who usually finds and chooses the pictures for my articles.

    BD: You are correct that celebrity has always existed in Christianity. However, I believe the trend has grown exponentially, and in many ways unhealthily, over the past 10-20 years.

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