In the News – Megachurch Pastor Criticizes Small Churches
Alpharetta, Ga.—In a recent sermon, the senior pastor at one of America’s largest churches called parents who attend small churches “so stinkin’ selfish.” Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, soon apologized, but his comments generated anger and debate.
Stanley said of small-church attendees: “All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids [or] anybody else’s kids…If you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people.”
Stanley later tweeted that the negative reaction was “entirely justified.” He added, “Even I was offended by what I said!”
Karl Vaters, author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches, and the Small Thinking that Divides Us, says Stanley “wounded some of the hardest-working, godliest, most committed servants I know.” Vaters argues that “small churches can serve young people well” and offer many opportunities for involvement and service.
According to a recent Duke University study, church members are more involved in small congregations than in larger ones, with “larger” being defined as 500+ members.
In response to the sermon, some bloggers wrote that Stanley seems to think friend-making, not preaching the gospel and teaching sound doctrine, is the church’s main function.
Other responses were more scathing. Jonathan Aigner describes how growing up in a megachurch “taught me to hate church.” He warns parents about “jesusy entertainment,” a slavish pursuit of “cultural relevance,” families worshiping separately, and young people being insulated from anyone not in their age group. “It’s time to tear down the silos,” Aigner writes.
Sources: christianitytoday.com, christianpost.com, patheos.com
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Discussion Starters for Student Small Groups
What do you suppose sparked Stanley’s comments? Do you think he realized how hurtful or controversial they’d be? If you’d been listening to his sermon, how do you think you would’ve responded, and why?
In your opinion, does Stanley’s general point hold any merit? Why or why not? What are some advantages and disadvantages of attending a very large church? a medium-sized church? a very small church?
What size is your church, and what other size churches (if any) have you belonged to or visited? What are your general impressions, thoughts, or concerns about various-size churches?
Do you think any particular size of church can best meet the needs of different age groups (children, teenagers, adults, senior citizens)? Explain. Does each age group require its own separate programming; for example, do junior highers and senior highers need different youth groups and activities? Why or why not?
What would you say is the main purpose of a church? To you, how important is it to meet new people and form new friendships among fellow churchgoers? Do you like to worship and fellowship with people who are similar to you or different from you? Explain.
If you had to choose, would you rather be at a church where everyone knows you really well or where you can get involved in many areas? Is it harder to get involved and feel included in a very large church? Why or why not?
How do you feel about Aigner’s criticism of megachurches? Is it okay to make church feel hip and fun in order to attract unchurched people? Or does that compromise the heart of the gospel message? Explain.
If Jesus were living on earth today, what size church do you think he’d attend, and why? How welcome do you think Jesus would feel at your church or youth group?
What makes you want—or not want—to attend church? Do you feel like an important, valued member of the body of Christ? Why or why not?
Scripture links: Matthew 18:19-20; Acts 2:42-47; 1 Corinthians 12:14-20, 27; Ephesians 4:11-13; Hebrews 10:19-25; 1 Peter 2:4-5