Thursday, December 11, 2008

Misguided Misgivings 2: The Walmart Effect

Dan Kimball says, “Some say that creating better programs, preaching, and worship services so people ‘come to us’ isn't going to cut it anymore. But here's my dilemma—I see no evidence to verify this claim.”

Here comes some evidence:

30 years ago the number of attractional megachurches in the US were only a handful. Today every city in the US has a handful of megachurches, some have two hands full and still cannot contain all. That is a momentous change. You would think that this is good news, but the truth is that at the same time the percentages of Christians in America has not grown, but diminished. What’s worse, is that we as a people in America are not better for it. Our culture and the values of our population is not improved, but worsened in that time.

These churches, offering lots of wonderful programs and music to attract people are attracting, by and large, Christians from other churches. The Walmart effect is at work here. A large full-service, big box church has opened up and the smaller family style congregations are closing their doors unable to compete with the productions and programs of the bigger church. I cannot celebrate that as success.

I am not saying that every attractional megachurch is only reaching Christians. There are always some exceptions to the rule. For the most part, however, I do believe that the megachurches are attracting people who find Christian worship music and preaching attractive, which would adequately describe only a small percentage of our society today--Christians. Most who do not follow Christ are not attracted by these things, sorry, but it is pretty obvious to them. It is time we realize it.

Granted conversions are not all that being missional is about, but it is core to what it means to be missional. Dan said as much himself.

But there are more reasons to question the attractional model than this. I will post more tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

I am really appreciating your engaging this issue. Look forward to more.


Anonymous said...

Hey Neal,

Really good thoughts (and glad to see you're blogging again).

I'm wondering what's going to happen when the "feeder system" dries up for many of the megas, because one day, it will. Maybe not completely, but it may just slow to a trickle.

Anonymous said...

That you characterize the big vs small church dynamic as "competition" reveals how much the WalMart effect is also influencing your own thinking.

Neil Cole said...

Keen observation on this post, whoever you are.

Actually, I want to make the point that we have created a competitive atmosphere because of the attractional element in church dynamics. That is sort of the point. I am not endorsing it, but stating that it is indeed a reality and not as healthy as we tend to accept.