Saturday, August 11, 2012

Can We afford to Leave the Work to the Mega Church?

I have seen a report of research to determine what it would take financially to reach the US. The report is broken down by cities listing the financial costs to reach particular cities for Christ using the traditional attractional model of church. The results are alarming. Just to reach one city alone would be astronomical and cost more than all Christian non-profit ministries receive in a single year combined.

For instance, The study shows that to reach Atlanta would cost over $63 billion. To reach New York City alone would cost more $418 Billion. Where would we expect such money to come from?

Giving USA
, a non-profit foundation that studies philanthropy in the United States, in its 2008 report found $103.32 billion went to houses of worship and denominational organizations in 2007. That entire amount could only reach the greater Washington DC area and would leave the rest of our country without any ministry at all. But of course, all our current churches and ministries would have to go out of business. This says nothing of missions to the rest of the world.

While a mega church can be missional it may not be the most wise use of resources to pursue the mission. If you want to compare the attractional mega church model against the micro model of church I think the cost alone makes it clear which is a more reasonable approach. I know that this type of content does not make my message very popular. I have tried to be fair and balanced but also share the unpopular truth. Unfortunately the ministries that end up costing the most often end up producing the least.

This is just not a good way to reach a city for Christ, let alone the world. There are better ways. We could reach the cities faster and for a fraction of the cost with a simpler approach to church. One of the sayings in our movement is: "It doesn't cost a dime to make a disciple, it only costs your life."


Mel Lawrenz said...

That's not bad news at all. It should not surprise us that the work of the kingdom is best done as seed spread widely or leaven working its way through a whole community.

Jim Evans said...

I'm not sure how the numbers were compiled, but to be fair on the best use of resources would mean that you should see what a church spends to produce a convert. Dividing the annual budget spent by the number of baptized converts will reveal if money is being spent to build the kingdom or maintain the club.
There's no need to put down mega churches or mini churches. It is the church's responsibility (regardless of size) to do the work of the ministry.
PS. Try the stewardship test and see how well your church is doing. The average is $60,000. Some of the mega churches are around $7,000.
Let's not leave the work to others . . . let's get 'er done.

David Kueker said...

One of the most interesting results to come out of the NCD or Natural Church Development was that the third most common factor for decreasing evangelistic effectiveness was church size.

Literally, the LARGER the church, the LESS effective it was at winning the lost. Here are the stats I dug out of my dissertation:

The results of the Natural Church Development (NCD) research, however, indicate that the third strongest negative factor to church growth is church size:
"The growth rate of churches decreased with increasing size. This fact in and of itself came as no great surprise, because in large churches the percentages represent many more people. But when we converted the percentages into raw numbers, we were dumbfounded. Churches in the smallest size category (under 100 in attendance) had won an average of 32 new people over the past five years; churches with 100-200 in worship also won 32; churches between 200-300 average 39 new individuals; churches between 300-400 won 25. So a ‘small’ church wins just as many people for Christ as a ‘large’ one, and what’s more, two churches with 200 in worship on Sunday will win twice as many new people as one church with 400 in attendance."
Schwarz found that the average growth rate in smaller churches was 13% (over five years), whereas in larger churches it was a mere 3%. A small church in the NCD sample with an average attendance of fifty-one typically converted thirty-two persons in five years; megachurches in the NCD sample averaged 2,856 in attendance but converted only 112 new persons in five years. The same number of persons participating in fifty-six small churches averaging fifty-one in attendance would have produced 1,792 converts in five years.

Source: Christian A. Schwarz, Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches (St. Charles, IL: ChurchSmart Resources, 1996), 46, 28-29.

Stefan Korth said...

I am not sure if it is just the size of a church that influences the spread of the gospel; what comes with the growing size of a church is that the members are less and less responsible, leaving all things up to the ministers. In fact this happens as soon as a group decides to become a church and elects leaders. I'd be curious how many people could be reached if we had no churches at all, not just small churches. I know that is mind stretching, but the bible does not talk about churches at all; these are, like the synagogue, man made, due to disrespect to god. The synagogue was introduced in diaspora, when the people of god were disobedient and god allowed them to be punished. We are not less disobedient in many ways, as we demand a king ourself just as the Jews did. We cannot imagine that a headless body would work, we see ministers as head of the church, and forget that Christ is the only head we should allow at the body of Christ. So I know what you will say: but there are ministers in the new testament as well, leaders, evangelist, apostles, prophets... What's with these?! Yeah, the mistake is that we marry these ministers with human authority. We create a church police. Instead, the authority should be confirmed by god through miracles. The apostles were accepted as authority not because they were the cool deciples of Christ, but simply because they performed the works of Christ. We have lost that one totally, we expect authority to come by the position alone, there is a word for that: spiritual rape.

To see less rape in churches -both spiritual and sexual, by the way - we need to get rid off hierarchy authorities within the body of Christ. Anyway, the leaders are not the ones to blame, as mentioned: it is the Christians who demand them. Here we need a new way of thinking. Else all our efforts of building the kingdom of god will be ending in building churches that rape people. The question is never IF a church rapes the people, it is WHEN.

Unknown said...

Neil, this is very thought-provoking. Is there any way you can include a link or source to the study you cite at the beginning of the post. It would be VERY useful.

Neil Cole said...

Good feedback friends. Yes, the NCD research has always been fascinating to me and consistently ignored by many. It was a study by Southern Baptists (conducted by Jim Slack). They have not given it away publicly so I do not feel at liberty to do so, but I have a copy. The stats are all spelled out mathematically. But, as I have consistently said it is not hard to dig up the math. Thanks you all for visiting the blog and interacting. I do appreciate it.

Todd said...

so...this whole thread is based on a "study" that we can't see? Hopefully I'm reading that wrong.

Neil Cole said...

Todd, I did a search and found an abbreviated form of the study. So I assume it is fine to share that one. It was conducted by Jim Slack and this abbreviated report summarizes what I was saying. The extended version has lots of detail on each city, but not any other information that isn't found in this summary.

Neil Cole said...

Look friends, this is not rocket science. A middle school delinquent could figure it out. If church is as expensive as we have typically made it we will not see it multiply; it will not be able to reach out to impoverished neighborhoods; and will not reach our cities, the nation or the world. I am not suggesting we do away with them, I am simply suggesting that we also include in our strategic thinking smaller and cheaper missional churches that can do all the above. If you cannot see this, I challenge you to find one study that says otherwise. If the only model of church we put forward is attractional than we will continue to stay in the same expensive buildings waiting for an indifferent world to come to us and we will wait forever.

Craig Mellican said...

Ah yes, not rocket science. Why do you think most current church leaders still buy into the conventional church planting model? Even in many third world contexts where the gap between local giving and cost of reaching is often even greater, causing reliance on overseas funds to pay most Christian workers' wages.