You need to read The Future of Evangelicalism: A Conversation With Rick Warren over at The Pew Forum. It’s long, and covers a lot of territory, but in it Rick talks about how megachurches do the small church thing (my words, not his). Here’s a quick excerpt:
WARREN: For example, our church, while we have the big services on Sunday, we meet in homes during the week in small groups of six to eight people. We have over 4,500 small groups. They meet in every city in Southern California.
CROMARTIE: How many again?
WARREN: Four-thousand-five-hundred. They meet in every city in Southern California from Santa Monica to Carlsbad. It’s a hundred miles distance in our small groups. So on Sunday morning they’re coming to Saddleback or they’re going to Saddleback San Clemente or Saddleback Irvine or Saddleback Corona, but during the week they’re in small groups.
And it is in that small group – when you get sick, you’re visited in the hospital. When you’re out of work, the people help you out. There is a real tight-knit community. There is a longing for belonging in our community, and large churches have figured out it’s not the crowd that attracts; it’s the stuff under the surface that attracts.”
Bingo! I love that line….“it’s not the crowd that attracts; its the stuff under the surface that attracts.” Of course, Rick points out that the largest churches in the world are not in the US, but in Asia, Africa, and South America. Read the entire interview. It’s good stuff about issues of interest to us all, no matter what size church you serve.
The problem with Twitter is you only have 140-characters to make your point. The example above has been re-tweeted about a million times in the past two days, and frankly, I find it a little annoying.
Okay, so Rick Warren is a megachurch guru, no doubt. Warren has over 65,000 Twitter followers — I have less than 2,000. But the problem here is I think Warren is trying to be clever (who doesn’t occasionally?), but is sending a lot of mixed signals. Here’s what I mean:
- Being a small church is nothing to be ashamed of. Okay, right there is the first problem. The implication about small churches, of course, is that they are something to be ashamed of. If not, why would we need to be reassured that they’re not? I’m a small-church pastor, and a small-church advocate, and frankly, we don’t need megachurch pastors as apologists for the churches we lead.
- Being a small-minded church is disobedience to Jesus’ Great Commission. This struck me two ways — first, small-minded gets connected to small church. Not the same, but a clever bridge to make his point. But in making that point apparently Warren is challenging small churches to not be small-minded. Whatever that is. As though small-mindedness leads to small numbers in church. Does anyone really think that megachurches are small-minded? Of course not because everything they do is big — buildings, parking lots, staff, programs, and so on. They’re megachurches and by definition are de facto not small-minded. Second, why is small-mindedness disobedience to the Great Commission? Why isn’t it poor stewardship, or failure to love, or bad marketing, or a host of other inadequacies?
Okay, I’ll stop before I get 50 comments telling me to lighten up. My point is this — aphorisms can be clever, but they’re also simplistic and shallow. I personally believe Rick Warren is a good guy, so this is nothing personal. And, he takes his share of hits for everything from gay marriage to his recent appeal for funds. But please, Rick, if you’re trying to pay small churches a compliment, don’t be so clever in the future. Thanks.
Ed Stetzer coins the phrase “ministry pornography” to describe a new kind of lust in the hearts of pastors and staff members, and it’s not what you think! This 3-minute video is worth watching.