In the past, I have been encouraged by my friends to write about the American Church. My observations are the result of 45 years of experience and lots of reading about how churches work. There are two rarely mentioned much less acknowledged truths about the relatively well funded American church (as opposed to the underground, persecuted Chinese version for example.)
First, there are no mega churches that I know of in North America that came about because of explosive evangelism. Primarily the rapid growth was initially due to transfer growth. Small churches were emptied as their congregants migrated to the hot new church in town. Since crowds generate even more crowds and the enthusiasm of the large crowd spreads to the friends of the attendees, it doesn’t take long before the church is huge. The church I led that grew this fast was growing at 200% per year for several years! Evangelism had little to do with it. However I remember being insulted whenever anyone dared suggest this was the cause. We would insist otherwise. It was God at work! Maybe. I am not so sure that He has anything to do with it….ever! I think God is at work in less obvious ways in this nation. I am doubtful that the huge and polished mega church is really His plan. It requires immense amounts of money to run one of those Christian machines. Take the money away and the church would scatter in no time.
Second, it may be no surprise to anyone but Pastor’s are highly competitive. I believe that we try very hard not to be. We whistle in the graveyard, pretending not to care when really we do. Attendance matters and money matters. It is nearly impossible to “do church” in the USA without both. So the demise of a successful pastor is publicly mourned (“Tsk, tsk, what a shame!”) but secretly celebrated because just maybe some of his people will now leave the monster church and move back to the smaller churches from whence they came. My experience suggests instead, people just seek out another mega church in the area. They like the big church feel and are no longer comfortable in the small crowd.
Neither of these things is particularly flattering and I am directing them at no one but myself. I have felt and experienced both of these things. All I am doing is saying aloud what no one dares say but which hardly anyone dares dispute. These are the unspoken sins of the money driven, excitement driven, publicity driven American church. I am casting my vote for the magnificent 50 person churches (the vast majority of all American churches) that faithfully and quietly labor to lead a handful of people to relationship with Jesus Christ. One person who responds is a great success and always will be.
John 2 23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. (NASB)