In a recent Christian Leaders article called ‘Has the Megachurch Lost its Luster?’ Barton Gingrich argues that in the USA, the megachurch phenomenon is here to stay. He also notes that the general Christian public has ceased to be dismayed or astounded by these huge churches.
Megachurches have become a cultural norm, and Gingrich seems to argue, as such, they are no longer a threat. In fact, in the face of critics who thought that megachurches would steal all the people from the smaller churches, he argues that the Megachurch allows people to seek Christianity in the anonymous setting, but when they hunger for deeper teaching and community, will seek out smaller churches. He seems to be saying, “See, they aren’t so bad after all. In fact, they can help!”
The problem with his reassurances regarding the harmless nature of the megachurch is that he reduces it to the equivalent of a shop front for the church. People can shop for Christianity with no strings attached at the megachurch, then go in a smaller church to get the real deal. However, I would argue that megachurches are the real expression of the church for countless numbers of people. They do find community, friendships and a deep Christian spirituality in these settings.
I agree with Gingrich that megachurches are not to be feared by Christian leaders. But not because they aren’t real churches – because they are.