The End-Times Perfect Storm of Heresy Series- The Mega Church
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
— Luke 15:7

https://careynieuwhof.com/5-unfair-criticisms-of-large-churches-its-time-to-drop/

 

Church used to be a much more local phenomenon. Your church was inevitably in your neighborhood. There were rarely outsiders, besides new people from the neighborhood convinced to come to church by their neighbors concerned for the state of their eternal souls. With the advent of social media and the internet however, things expanded, as they did in every area of life. There has been a movement afoot for several decades now. A perfect storm of heresy brewing if you will that has led us to the state we are in now, where the enemy is ready to unleash the apostate church in these end times. Those who refuse to bow the knee to the corporate bastardization of the body of Christ already have felt that unleashing as our cries as watchmen are often greeted with anger, hatred, and mocking. There is nothing new under the sun beloved as this is what Noah experienced as well when he built a boat for a hundred years and it had never rained before.

 

In 1995 Rick Warren published the guide for pastors to follow him into the abyss known as the Purpose Driven Church. This outlined the new model for what he referred to as church growth. It required a cult of personality preacher who acted as the CEO and vision caster. It required a shift from a church focused on the spiritual growth of the sheep to the carnal enticement of the goats. Lastly, through something Warren dubbed “Blessed Subtraction”, the purpose driven church encouraged pastors to drive sheep out of the sheepfold for any disagreement. This combined with the seeker friendly theories of church growth which compromised the Gospel in order to draw the unsaved. Sermons went from an hour and a half to a half hour. Secular music started to seep into worship and eventually newer worship music abandoned any sense of biblical accuracy. Salvation in the Purpose Driven Life was reduced to eight words. The object was no longer to save people but rather to “church” them. To convince them that they were saved in an effort to make them come back the following week. Rick Warren in 2012 penned an op-ed to pastors encouraging them to not preach the Gospel on Easter Sunday so they can give the visitors a reason to come back the follow week. That is the embodiment of how the church is run today.

 

With these two forces as the foundation, they combined with the emerging New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) at the turn of the century. False signs and lying wonders filled church houses across the land as the Toronto Outpouring of heresy and the Pensacola Demonic Movement were deemed legitimate moves of the Holy Spirit. Places like IHOP and Bethel began to emerge targeting the youth so they could have the next generation believing that barking like a dog or twitching uncontrollably must be from God. This of course led the way for Todd Bentley to pack 15,000 a night into tent meetings in Lakeland Florida to watch him kick people in the face and punch them in the stomach to “impart” healing. The final piece to the demonic toxic stew was the idol worship of America brought to the church from the NAR. The seven mountains mandate heresy would secure the older generation as the apostate church actively seeks and worships the state. The deliverance vehicle for this perfect storm of heresy is the mega church. The mega church allows zero accountability and the aloofness needed for the cult of personality preachers to never get directly questioned. Of course, if any serious questions ever arose the “troublemakers” would be deemed as agitators and removed via blessed subtraction.

The above link is to a recent article from Carey Nieuwhof, who is considered a church leadership expert. This is an entire new field that has grown out of the purpose driven church storm. Like the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, Nieuwhof mixes utterly carnal leadership practices with a breathtakingly poor understanding of scripture to promote the apostate church. Let us reason together through this latest offering, where he gives his top five unfair criticisms of mega churches, which he feels we need to drop.

 

“When you think of large churches and mega-churches, what comes to mind? If there’s one thing I learned from writing about the church, it’s that some people hate megachurches. With a passion. I try not to engage the trolls and the haters in the comments on my blog (engaging them just gives them what they want). But I’ve also noticed that even among normally more balanced and nuanced church leaders, it’s easy to take swipes at megachurches. Sometimes I wonder how much of that is born out of envy, a sense of inferiority or simple misunderstanding, but after years of hearing people complain about large churches and megachurches, it might be good to re-visit the subject more intentionally.” – Carey Nieuwhof

 

Now I have met people who prefer the intimacy of a small church and others who prefer the anonymity allowed in a mega church but I have never met anyone who hated a mega church. Interesting that he admits up front he will only engage in those who agree with him as this is a cornerstone of purpose driven theology. That is the entire point of “blessed subtraction.” If we disagree we are branded as “trolls” or “haters” so that the substance never has to be addressed.

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Then for the more “balanced” people who disagree, well, they must be envious. Now, this may be true for some pastors who drank the purpose driven Kool Aid and have yet to find their mega destiny, but for others it is simply a matter of calling evil by its name.

 

“A while back, someone left this comment on about some large church pastors who burned out: Wish these guys would get wise and start obeying Scripture and follow the New Testament model of interdependent churches under presbytery rule with representatives. Of course these preachers get burned out. They’ve made themselves the lynchpins of megachurches. They should get burned out. It’s a bad model of church government on many fronts, and it’s actually from the mercy of God that these men burn out. Churches are meant to be small, tightly knit communities, not splashy corporations. You build a monster, you get devoured. Or you become a monster. Burnout of megachurch pastors probably saves souls. Burnout of megachurch pastors saves souls? I wish I was making this up. But I’m not. Somebody actually wrote this. Sigh. Are megachurches perfect? No. But no church is perfect, including small and mid-sized churches. Even on a simple logical level, saying all megachurches are bad is like saying all small or mid-sized churches are bad. It’s just simplistic and illogical thinking. And for the record, I’m a fan of small churches—of any sized church—that wants to reach its community. There’s nothing wrong with small church. There is something wrong with dead church.” – Carey Nieuwhof

 

Yes Carey, someone actually wrote this because it is true. I may not agree in totality but the vast majority of mega churches compromise the Gospel and thus present a false christ who cannot actually save anyone. Read Matthew 7 and see how that turns out for the folks who are saying “Lord Lord.” The burnout of Perry Noble for example, clearly saved souls. If Joel Osteen got burned out and retired I cannot count the number of souls that would be saved. Now I agree that it is not logical to paint with a broad brush and say that every church with 2000 in weekly attendance must be bad. But the vast majority are bad and I know this by their fruit and by the Bible. The Gospel divides people. Here is the foundational problem for people like Carey Nieuwhof – they view the size of the church to determine its health.

So a small church could be small because i’s dead, but it never occurs to Nieuwhof that a mega church could be huge because it is dead.

Does anyone think that people flock to Lakewood Church because Pastor Joel Osteen preaches the Gospel? It is the opposite reason, beloved. The key verse teaches us that heaven rejoices when one sinner repents – not mega churches filled with people. Narrow is the way and those who find it are few.  

 

“And occasionally, when small churches start to reach new people, they become mid-sized churches. And then, before you know it, some of them become larger churches. Then what? If you’re against church growth, you’re against the basic mission of the church: to reach people. So what happens when a church starts to grow? Do you shut the growth down? Do you get bad at what you do so you stop reaching people? Or do you keep your churches smaller on purpose and multiply (by the way, that’s now called multi-site)? The logical issues alone with slamming large churches are riddled with problems. But it’s even deeper than that. So here are 5 criticisms of large churches it’s finally time to drop.” – Carey Nieuwhof

 

Let’s clarify something that Nieuwhof always seems to get wrong. The basic mission of the church is not simply to “reach people.” Read Acts 2 and see that it is left to God to grow the body of Christ. Salvation is entirely a work of God – He decides who and how many get saved. You are confusing people who say the 8-word prayer and are willing to come back to serve in the parking lot ministry with people who have repented and are now saved. The issue is not the size of the church but what you did and did not do in order to achieve that size.

 

“1. IT’S A ONE-MAN (OR ONE-WOMAN) SHOW - I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that a large church is a one-person show. That’s because—quite naturally—most of us think of the founder or senior leader when we think of a large church (there are some large churches where that isn’t the case, but they’re the exception). As a rule, most large churches hardly behave like a one-man or one-woman show. There are actually teams of highly skilled leaders around the point leader. Anyone who says a large organization is a one-man show doesn’t understand what’s required to lead a large, complex, let alone multi-site organization. You simply HAVE to have dozens to hundreds of capable staff and thousands of capable volunteers. In reality, far more small churches are one-man or one-woman shows than large churches. It’s far more likely that a small church or a mid-sized church (say 400-600) is a one-person show because it IS possible for the leader to do pretty much everything. That breaks down entirely once your church is larger than a thousand in attendance. In fact, your church will never sustainably grow to 1000 people if it’s a one-person show run entirely by the leader. While the reasons for Mars Hill’s collapse five years ago are complex (I talk about them in Episode 79 of my Leadership Podcast with Mars Hill insider Justin Dean), you can argue that it wasn’t sustainably built because it imploded when Mark Driscoll left. But Newspring and Cross Point Churches have done very well under new leadership since their founding pastors left. For more on the encouraging story at Cross Point, you can listen to my interview with Kevin Queen and another with Cross Point’s senior leadership team members Drew Powell and Matt Warren. And many other very large churches have gone through changes in leadership successfully. Southeast Christian grew significantly after its founder left and is now on the third generation of succession.  Christ Fellowship in Florida is thriving after its founder left. Gene Appel handed over a very large Central Christian Church in Las Vegas to Jud Wilhite, who has led it to unprecedented growth and expansion over 15 years. People who say large churches are one-man shows don’t understand large churches. Period. – Carey Nieuwhof

 

Yeah, no. Period. Nieuwhof is making a nuanced and silly point. No one has ever suggested that no one else works at a mega church besides the pastor. If anything, the pastor does not work enough in the Purpose Driven Paradigm because they outsource all of the pastoral functions to lower pastoral staff. That is not what we are talking about when we correctly state that mega churches are organized around the principle of a singular public speaker that has charisma and draws people in. Do you honestly think that if Joel Osteen left tomorrow that Lakewood would thrive? Is Andy Stanley’s top assistant ready to take over the entire ministry? Doubt it. If Rick Warren left Saddleback do you think anyone else would leave the church, too? The reasons for the collapse of Mars Hill are not complex. They had an arrogant ass of a leader (Mark Driscoll) who stole 250,000 dollars of tithes to cheat the New York Times Best Seller list. He also widely abused the very people he was supposed to lead and once bragged about blessed subtraction by referring to his victims as a pile of dead bodies he was leaving in his wake. That is really not too complex, Carey. I cannot speak to the ones that survived, although I am sure the Newspring Congregants were glad to see Perry Noble shuffle off into obscurity.

 

“2. THE PEOPLE WHO ATTEND ARE BLIND SHEEP - First of all, if you think the people who attend large churches are all blind sheep, why don’t you ask them if that’s the case? After all, it’s a pretty insulting accusation. If you visit most megachurches, you won’t find blind sheep. You will find leaders. Actually, most often, you’ll find capable leaders—independent men and women who appreciate the level of purpose, thoughtfulness and mission behind many of today’s larger churches. I’m not saying leaders don’t also go to small or mid-sized churches, but they also (perhaps predominantly) become engaged in large churches. Why? Well, because great leaders tend to gravitate toward churches and organizations that are well led. They want to be well-led in church because that’s what they’re used to in the marketplace and in life. Great leaders attract great leaders. They’re used to leaders and teams of leaders who know how to make critical decisions, to advance a collective cause and who can lead and manage complex organizations. By contrast, capable leaders avoid poorly-led organizations and churches.” – Carey Nieuwhof

 

The arrogance here is staggering. Let me break this down for you. “Leaders” are attracted to mega churches for the money. As Carey likes to say – period. Some for the fame and notoriety but at the end of the day they are just as carnal as you or I. People (like Nieuwhof) who promote the mega church model never seem to admit the obvious: megalomaniacs like to run mega churches (or else they become politicians, entertainment icons or Corporate Executives). They may convince themselves that the larger church means more people reached for Jesus but if the salary package is underwhelming let’s see how fast God “speaks to their heart” that this is not the right “season.” As for the accusation, I would not say that the people at Lakewood are blind sheep because that somehow implies they are all saved when,most likely, they are all not. They are much more likely to be blind goats. According to Romans the preaching of the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way someone gets saved and since we know Joel Osteen does not preach the Gospel (or if he does, he’s hiding it really well), the math is pretty simple.

 

“3. BIG CHURCHES DON’T PRODUCE REAL DISCIPLES - Of all the criticism, this one stings me the most personally, mainly, because it’s just not true. And while I haven’t led a gigantic church personally, I’m founding pastor of a large church (1500) and this criticism always chased our ministry. Start with the basics. What is a disciple? Someone who has decided to trust Jesus as their Saviour. But how do you know whether they’re following Jesus? Jesus actually gave us a very practical test that helps us tell. He simply said: “By their fruit you’ll recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” In other words, look at someone’s life for the evidence. Knowledge, as the Apostle Paul pointed out, is not spiritual maturity. Knowledge makes you arrogant. And arrogance isn’t a mark of Christian maturity. If you go to a megachurch, you will discover thousands of people whose lives look more like Jesus a few years down the road than they ever did before. You’ll discover people who have placed their faith in Jesus and who are being transformed by the love of God (and you’ll discover that in small and mid-sized churches too). You know who isn’t being transformed by love? The critics. Think about that for a while. And maybe worry about that as well.” – Carey Nieuwhof

 

Absolutely horrible. What Carey is advocating here is a lack of knowledge. You don’t want to read the Bible! That will make you arrogant! Let the cult of personality preacher-dude give you his condensed and highly paraphrased version of the Bible! When promising the Holy Spirit for believers Jesus did not say He would lead you into all love. He said all truth! It seems that for the purpose driven industrial complex, the more ignorant you are the better. People who claim transformation without knowledge are not being transformed by God, beloved. Not even close. They are the reason Jesus asked, why do you call me Lord and not do what I say?

What Carey Nieuwhof is encouraging here is sheer biblical ignorance. He is leading countless down the broad path that leads only to destruction. He might realize that if he ever picks up a Bible. So most mega churches that compromise the gospel do not, cannot, produce real disciples. They can produce sycophants to repeat the catch-phrases and generalizations that the industrial complex wants to spread. To claim that the opposite of knowledge is love is really absurd.

 

“4. PEOPLE DON’T LIKE ATTENDING LARGE CHURCHES - This is a fun argument to spin because it sounds like what Yogi Berra said about a certain New York restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” While it may be true that there is a cultural trend toward smaller, the truth is people in continue to flock to megachurches.  Studies continue to show that megachurches keep getting bigger and there are more of them every year. And even a more recent study shows churches over 250 in attendance are more likely to be growing and seeing people become Christians. Large churches are doing a better and better job of making things smaller too. The launch of new, smaller campuses and smaller worship spaces are models many megachurches are adopting. The paradox is that large churches keep getting larger and smaller at the same time. Which is one of the reasons they keep growing larger.” – Carey Nieuwhof

 

Now first of all, I agree that people are still flocking to the mega church model. Mostly because they will be assured of salvation without having to actually change anything. You can get lost in a mega church and enjoy little to no accountability. As to the “doing things smaller” aspect, I am not buying it. I understand it is Nieuwhof’s job to try and sell it but the truth is that people go to mega churches so they can avoid the (overly religious and irrelevant) Gospel and, instead, be entertained in exchange for the promise of a heaven they will most likely never see.

 

5. MEGACHURCHES ARE UNBIBLICAL This is a common criticism of megachurches. People don’t like the lights, the structure or “CEO” style leadership. I’m just not sure the argument stands up, though. First, the critics of megachurches are rarely practicing what might be called ‘biblical’ forms of church. My guess is most don’t get up at 5 a.m. each day before work, get together with other Christians to pray and promise each other that they won’t cheat on their wives, that they’ll care for the poor and stay faithful to Jesus. My guess is they’re not reciting ancient canticles, gathering daily in each other’s homes and radically pooling their possessions to care for the poor and help other fledgling churches fuel the rapidly expanding Jesus-movement. If they are, my hat’s off to them. This is probably a fair representation of the form of first-century Christian worship. The reality, of course, is that the church has always changed, adapted and responded to changing times. Organ music, now seen as traditional, obscure or even quaint, was the ‘radical’ new worship of the nineteenth century. It’s so easy to confuse the method with the mission and preferences with principles. The methods change. The mission doesn’t. In fact, if you want to jeopardize the mission, never change your method. You’ll become irrelevant in a generation. Just Nest and Ring have changed home security, Lyft and Uber have disrupted taxis, Airbnb has changed the hotel industry and the way we vacation, it’s not that people gave up on home security, transportation or accommodation, it’s just that how we now do that has changed. Ditto with the church. There may be a day where large churches are no longer an effective way to share Christ with others. If that’s the case, they’ll fade. In the meantime, though, if they continue to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus, why stop them?” – Carey Nieuwhof

 

The opening argument here is just foolish but then again the premise is equally foolish. I do not expect someone in the business of church to understand the things of the Spirit. The concept of a mega church is not unbiblical. It is how they became a mega church, how they compromise the Gospel, and what they teach that is unbiblical. I have seen this subterfuge from Nieuwhof before. “While the method of church delivery may have changed over the years – the Gospel never changes.” That is the problem with the mega church delivery. They market the church to the unsaved goats and get rid of the sheep of the Lord if they dare disagree. The CEO style of leadership is completely antithetical to the Bible. Andy Stanley once said that the church should stop using the word shepherd because it is no longer culturally relevant. As if God cares about the culture. He used the imagery of the shepherd for a reason that is lost on mega church heretics like Stanley.

The argument of irrelevance is in and of itself irrelevant. Realize what it says about the God we claim to serve. That He is incapable for reaching people in this generation without our help in changing what He has already ordained! The Gospel does not need to change - period. It is only fitting that Nieuwhof finishes on a point he simply does not understand. The reason they should stop Carey is that they are NOT leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus. In Acts 20, Paul says goodbye to the elder in Ephesus and declares himself innocent of their blood because he did not hesitate from declaring to them the entire will of God. The mega church compromises the Bible, Carey. It has to in order to get more goats to show up each week. The mega church system has grown the apostate church beyond the dreams of any heretic but in the end, Carey, they remain apostate. The people trying to warn you about this perfect storm you are a part of are not trolls, Carey. They are the watchmen on the wall and the voice crying out in the wilderness. They are also the reason you will not be able to say you were not warned.

 

Reverend Anthony Wade – July 17, 2019


Anthony Wade is the minister for 828 Ministries devoted to the purity of doctrine