I’ve visited a variety of big churches, some might even call them mega-churches, whatever that means. I’ve stood in auditoriums that sat well over 5,000 people (talk about feeling small). You can look in almost any theological direction nowadays and be standing in the shadow of massive buildings, outreach ministries, TV and radio broadcasts, seminaries, literary works, and conference banners which are carrying the label of one dynamic individual’s name.
What will remain though once some of the leading voices of Churchland in America have passed away? Hopefully a great legacy will remain… but have the large buildings, massive auditoriums, and huge campuses surrounding them all been built because a particular personality is leading the ministry or because the focus is intentionally not on one fallible human?
Timeout – Just to be clear, yes, many of these ministries have been built with Christ as the center… but as with anything that grows to a massive size, it’s easy to lose the core of its identity in the shadow of its size.
I don’t want to be “that guy” who’s just throwing rocks because I’m not in the same high-profile position as these leaders. I’ve met some of these guys personally and I love what God’s doing in and through them for the Church. I have no beef with any of them personally but this is my question for us as a Church:
When giants of the faith, like Chuck Swindoll, Rob Bell, John MacArthur, Rick Warren, Steven Furtick, Erwin McManus, Bill Hybels, T.D. Jakes, Andy Stanley, Mark Driscoll, Perry Noble, James McDonald, and other leaders of the Church in America today breathe their last breaths… then what? As soon as a giant of the faith steps into eternity, is it only a matter of time until the monument to their ministry personality goes up for sale? Or will it be so grounded in Christ that it becomes a matter of changing leadership without changing direction?
This is part of the reason that Francis Chan gave when he stepped away from his ministry at Cornerstone in Simi Valley, CA. It was becoming harder for Chan to stand in the tension between ministry of who Christ is and the attention that Chan’s influence was bringing… so he resigned. Wow.
When I look around at my own ministry here at The Crossing though, I’ve got to remember that God’s the one who builds the Church, not me. There’s nothing that I can build on my own that will have lasting effect in this life. If I pour blood, sweat, and tears into a ministry that’s all about me, then I’ve cheated the people I’ve influenced.
The Church can’t be built of monuments to ministry personalities because those personalities don’t live forever, only the work of Christ can. Is it wrong to have massive ministries coming from a dynamic ministry leader’s work? Nope, not necessarily… but we have to know why it’s growing and who’s growing it.