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There seem to be two leadership trajectories in the west. The first seems to be characterized by the recent phenomena of mega churches in the world. The majority of church conferences today are focused on this reality. The essence of these conference experiences seems to be a kind of corporate leadership guide for aspiring Executives of Corporate churches. Each conference introduces a new inductee to the role of mega church pastor-hood.

The excitement this type of environment creates for some makes others yawn.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m an advocate for mega churches. Why would anyone in their right minds be opposed to something that people enjoy and prosper in? In fact, Mega-churches often grow because they’re friendlier, smarter, and more outward oriented than churches that don’t grow. They grow because they meet needs smaller churches that don’t grow can’t meet. They tend to raise the leadership standards to a higher level. They are able to produce programs and experiences with excellence. Mega-churches have everything going for them except the stuff required to touch and reach the west for Christ. Mega churches are big, just not big enough, strong enough, fast enough.

Let’s look at a second trajectory. A friend of mine ( a Political Science prof at the University of Michigan) tells me that a striking characteristic of Mormonism, the fastest growing religious movement since the primitive Christ following movement, is that their “churches” are not led by clergy but by “lay” people. [I’ve still to check the sources on this, but my argument here doesn’t hinge on this fact]. If true, this striking characteristic of Mormonism would be a commonality with the early Christ following movement as well.

The fast growing early church had no or few “church buildings” . They met in homes or where they could. The had no budgets of the kind with which we are familiar. They didn’t have an Employer Identification Number or Tax Exempt Status issue from Rome. They didn’t have seminaries or seminary profs. They lacked clergy and celebrity pastors. They didn’t have corporations with departments and programs. Ok, sure if you want to get picky, they didn’t blog.

Let’s look at this the correct way. The early church did NOT have

church buildings
church budgets
church programs (a children’s department? a youth program?)
church offices
tax exemptions for churches
seminaries to train clergy

And that’s when we grew the fastest. Their churches tended to be small but they proliferated around the Mediterranean on the heels of converts to the Christ following faith. Unlike today’s simple and organic churches, they had the power, vision, and ambition of mega churches. They didn’t revel in being small, simple, and organic.

For me this means that we need to celebrate when a ministry succeeds to the extent of the Mega-churches. Really celebrate. But should we now seek to crown the mega-church model with the particular competencies of Mega-Church corporate leadership as the basic training set for emerging apostles, evangelists, pastors, and church planters? If our goal is to grow churches big — and I think we should shoot for this when the gifts and talent are present — then maybe. But, If our goal is to set western culture on fire again with the gospel of Jesus, then no. Preparation to lead a Mega church is not the model and training that will win the west and the world again. This model won’t even win the church in the west much less the world outside the church.

The second trajectory, is more simple. The future of the kingdom advance is far more dependent on the charism, the gift, of servant leadership and missional community than it is on a budget granted from a denomination, a corporate leader, or corporate church structures and programs. The first trajectory needs excellence and resources to launch and heart and hospitality to succeed. The second needs heart and hospitality to launch and resources and drive to succeed. [More on this in my next post].

Rather than taking on an “either/or” posture about structure, we may need to take on, in this instance, a “both/and” posture. New communities of faith are like those little turtles that are buried to hatch near the ocean’s edge. When they break through the sand the predators await them. Thousands and thousands of them hurry to the immediate safety of the water. Hundreds will perish. Many will make it. They will populate the oceans and propagate their species. Some of them will go one to be old and large sea faring creatures. By analogy, in order to recolonize the west for Christ, we need hundreds of thousands of gals and guys that will move from zero to sixty, from no budget, no backing, no training to community via the conversion of people to the Christ following faith. And we’ll celebrate with them. Sure, some of these guys will go past sixty, a few past 200, a fraction past 1000 and we’ll celebrate with each of these leaders too. And, sure, then “one in a million” of these guys will become a mega church pastor. Finally, the “one in a million” will show up as a guest speaker at a conference. Maybe even one of mine. But, while we laugh and celebrate how the great story of Jesus has been lived out in this mega church pastor’s life and ministry, all of us will also know the truth about how the west will be won.

See you in the Mystic,




45 responses to “Mega Church and Home Church Networks: Twin Trajectories and Why We Need Them Both”

  1. Neal Taylor Avatar

    Amen mate! I’m part of a group here in Australia called FORGE – that provides missional training to both existing church leaders and others who feel the second trajectory you mentioned is for them. Many of these folks are ex-mega church (as much as church can be classified a mega church here in Oz) or organized denominationalism that recognize that the gospel will need to move out of the four walls of the church building and out to our neighbors and fellow humans.

  2. Mark Weible Avatar

    Nice post. I disagree on one point, the apostle Paul was a blogger – just different technology.

  3. Dennis Mixer Avatar

    One of the distinctives of Indiana Wesleyan University is our focus on changing the world by developing vocational educators, nurses, and business leaders who have avocations as servant-leaders demonstrating the character of God to their spheres of influence. Thanks for noting the impact such devotees make to the cause of Christ.

  4. Coral Turner Avatar

    How can we stop our “happy little” churches from being absorbed into megas? Ours is small and getting smaller, but quite happy.
    Should we be happy with that?

  5. Alex Avatar

    Neil, Always good to hear from the guys “down under”.
    I’ve had the priviledge to correspond with both Alan and Michael this year and look forward to working with them and Forge in the future.

    Mark, got me. Indeed, Paul was a tent maker but what he really wanted to do was be a writer…a voxer.

    Dennis, You’re welcome. Thank you for preparng the next generation of leaders.

    Coral, one of the best things that could happen to most happy churches is to be absorbed into a mega church. often, there will be people within small churches who long to live for something greater than themselves, but they’re trapped by a sense of loyalty and love for the community of a small non-missional church. Another great thing that could happen is for a small church to become missional. It still may die, but what a noble death it would be. About happiness…one of the distinctive marks of followers of the God of Israel, the God and father of the Lord Jesus, is concern for the outsider, the alien, the foreigner. What makes us happy is including the nations in the movement of God in history. So, if your small and “getting smaller” church is pouring out it’s life that the triumph of Christ might resound in all the earth, but is still declining because of any number of variables, then yes, don’t worry, be happy.

  6. David Taylor Avatar

    I’m 41 and most of my adult ministry has been in a megachurch. God led my wife and I to walk away from that (with everybody thinking we were crazy) and now we’re planting with no budget and no backing. I found “old dog/new tricks” to be more true in my life than I would have liked it to be. We’re two years into this venture finally seeing and believing there is a path to reaching people other than one with the ultimate goal of megachurch status.

  7. Gwynn Lewis Avatar

    i think that your info on mormons is accurate, they also meet in small groups within their temples, and have houses near high schools where the young people can hang out. the elders are not seminary trained… they are more life style leaders than doctrine guides… not a bad strategy. it has a lot of similarities to the house church in china. it is amazaing how the chinese believers break all the rules, but grow like wildfire. they seem to be frozen in time from 1940’s, sing hyms, love choirs, etc. but they do have that “Christ following faith” that you mentioned, the one element that grows the church weather it is mega or micro, weather it grows huge or multiplies in houses.

  8. Alex Avatar

    David, Good talking to you just now. What is your ultimate goal?

    Gwynn, Great to hear from you. Niza and I were talking about you just the other day. She asked me if I ever heard from you. Now I can tell her, yes. It’s amazing isn’t that Church Planters in the west are so preoccupied by “style” of worship services as if that were the key to touching and reaching people.

  9. niza Avatar

    gwynn – oh my gosh! is it really you 🙂 ? i have such fond memories of the mission trip i took to china with your group. YOU ROCK!

  10. niza Avatar

    btw gwynn, niza is adriana… haha!

  11. Patrick Green Avatar
    Patrick Green

    Here are a few thoughts…

    I’m not fully on board with the “positive” attributes you mentioned regarding megachurches. Church as “business,” replete with benefits, hierarchy, and politics, does not reflect the father heart of God at all. It closely reflects the post-Constantinian, passive-observer, consumer Christianity that we are so familiar with.

    Was that one large fry, and one mediocre Christianity?

    One of the primary reasons–I see–that we need the megachurches is because to totally remove them from society would psychologically impair a vast majority of “believers,” potentially leveling their faith. Like removing processed food in a culture that has forgotten how to live off the land, the American (and European) church would falter.

    The megachurch phenomenon does not make people excited at one end of the spectrum and yawn at the other. I don’t know anyone who yawns about. It does, however, make many people frustrated, sad, and at times sick.

    Some people actually believe that God’s heart is grieved by it.

    That he used Balaam’s donkey is true, and that he provided Israel with a King is also, but they weren’t God’s first choices.

    We were never physiologically, mentally or spiritually created to passively sit in a church service watching the “professional” Christian talk about what he or she believes. We all know this at core, but some do not want to admit to having a lazy, consumer attitude that is ok with status quo.

    I admit that I don’t always feel like participating, that I am sometimes as trapped in complacency as the next person. But I will never let myself be comfortable with this performance-oriented style of Christianity.

    Since megachurchdom shows no sign of dying off, we need to remember to continue to fellowship in small and large institutional churches alike, but to find our strength and application of scripture in the home, surrounded by those from the local community, eating food together, and talking about how Jesus impacted us during the preceding week.

    As a side note, when I used to live in California, I enjoyed hearing you speak. You “do” the current church paradigm rather well.

    Peace surround you all…

  12. mark Avatar

    “One of the best things that could happen to most happy churches is to be absorbed into a mega church. often, there will be people within small churches who long to live for something greater than themselves, but they’re trapped by a sense of loyalty and love for the community of a small non-missional church.” – I find that quote interesting as it brings up to me the concept again of a church “implant” as opposed to a plant . . . Is it possible to mobilize missional “pockets” within a mainstream non-missional gathering, and have the fire spread over time? If these implants truly have a missional DNA, over time they may bind to the larger Gathering DNA and alter it? Of course, the reverse is also possible . . .

    But if these implants are reproducible, organic movements of missional Christ-followers, is this a viable model . . .?

  13. Jo G Avatar
    Jo G

    Does it really have to be either/or?
    I belong to a smaller-type of ‘church’ (where we meet weekly in a building to gather together as a body, etc.), and we are also very community minded, and also gave some growth groups (in the truest sense). There are many other smaller churches out there who are able to impact the communities the people live in and go to, etc.

    The early church model is certainly something to follow, but we are truly living in different times and the church worldwide looks different depending on what country, etc. that you are in. Reproducible, viable ‘models?’ Does it really matter where we gather structurally and how that looks?

  14. Matt Wiebe Avatar

    Good thoughts here Alex. I’m glad to see somebody with a larger prespective than the false dichotomy of megachurch or small-unstructured church.

  15. Andy J Avatar
    Andy J

    Good thoughts Alex. One is not the enemy, or even the opposite of the other. God’s Kingdom expands, often times in spite of us, and both models are helping to expand it. Both have their strengths and both have their weaknesses. Though I do think in cultures where Jesus is still not known, the house church/church planting movement is the better strategy. For a good book on this, see “Church Planting Movements” by David Garrison, though you’ve probably already read it. God’s doing incredible stuff around the world thru CPMs and this book chronicles and give best practices on it. Good stuf…

  16. Jeremy Avatar


    Great post. I liked how you lifted up the benefits of two very different paths of the church. I just completed reading a book called “The Starfish and the Spider” that talks about decentralized vs. centralized systems. I was going to start a discussion on it on my blog next week, but your post made me jump the gun a little and bring it up today. I expound upon it at http://www.livingunleashed.com. Come on over and check it out.


  17. Alex Avatar

    Patrick, Thanks. I always try to do my best.

    Mark M, Yes, it can happen. You need an apostolic team to work with. And, later, if you are able to gain momentum, you may not want to reassimilate.

    Jo G, I think you’re right. The variables are many. The forms can be many. But the function should be to embody the mission of Christ in some way. Also, what are the ways in which the churches across
    cultures resemble each other? What are the universals?

    Mark W, Thanks. House church people tend to be smug when it comes to the accomplishments of the Mega churches. Those who tend towards the Mega Church can sometimes be dismissive of the House Church and its contribution.

    Andy J, Thanks. Because of my interest and involvement in the Christ following movement in the third world, I’ve beend exposed to the CPM conversation for almost a couple of decades now.
    David Garrison presented years ago at the Church on Brady in LA at one of our Mission conferences. Awesome thinker and strategist.

    Jeremy, This is one the major shifts in our life time. When the Berlin wall came down and the Soviet empire unravelled, it may have been about more than the victory of capitalism over communism. Part of what we were seeing may have been the demise of extreme centralization and the victory of decentralization.

  18. Bill Avatar

    What’s wrong with megachurches? They lead many people to Christ, and as Paul said, “Christ is preached and in this I rejoice.” By the way, the earliest churches did have buildings: they were called SYNAGOGUES, and they did have budgets, and pulpits, and preaching, and organization. They followed the synagogue model, so I think you’re pressing your ecclesiastical/anarchist model beyond historical bounds. The bigger the better as far as I’m concerned. God gives the increase! What did the early church do with 2000 converts on the day of pentecost? They stuffed them into the temple, and organized them into house groups; exactly the same model found in most megachurches. Later!

  19. Andy Avatar

    I read this post and just wanted to say, Amen, and I’m looking forward to the follow-up.

    One concern is that people schooled in traditional churches may move toward the “Second Trajectory” as a strategy to “succeed.” In this way of thinking, I’m tempted to be in control, rather than trusting Jesus to literally lead. Besides the visible characteristics of the early church you’ve described, I think they saw Jesus as the head in reality, not metaphorically or in a qualified sense. The tendency to replace Jesus’ headship with something we can better grasp (a leader, personal choice, etc) is something every gathering of Jesus followers has in common from the mega-church to the simplest house church. It’s like Israel’s desire to have a king.

    I’m not against human leadership or personal responsibiltiy. I’m concerned that trusting in Jesus to provide direction in the moment easily becomes token words rather than concrete reality when I (and perhaps others) focus on human leaders, kings, presidents, strategies, methods, etc.

  20. Alex Avatar

    Bill, Well if you read Patrick (comment above), plenty. But I agree with you here. People come to faith via the megachurch. What’s more, small churches find hope for the future, training, and inspiration from mega churches. By “earliest churches…” do you mean the gathering at Theesalonica, Colassae, etc. Or are you pushing back behind to a time earlier than this? To the time the gospel was primarily a part of the Jewish experience? Before the spillover to the gentiles? Were these churches or synagogues of which converts were a part? In other words, did churches [gatherings of Christ following Jews] have buildings or were they part of Synagogues? You may be right. I may be pressing my “anarchist” [or did you mean anachronistic?] model beyond historical bounds. And, you’re right again. The synagogue must certainly have been a model for the earliest form of Christ following community. But the image of the early church that I get as I read Acts is of gatherings in homes of people who had converted to the Christ following faith. Jew and/or gentile. Certainly, entering the synagogue with the gospel was a part of first century evangelism strategy for Jewish evangelists. But, if you follow the carreer of Paul, he would eventually take the converts and start something new. What did the early church do with 2000 converts on the day of Pentecost? They stuffed them into the temple? Really? If they had done this, the gospel would still be in Jerusalem. In fact, what happened was the pilgrims visiting Jerusalem during Pentecost went back to their homes with the gospel. Later, persecution came to Jerusalem and Christ following people fled the area, and God dispersed the good news throughout the world. We tend to centralize. The spirit tends to decentralize.

    Later back at ya.

  21. Alex Avatar


    Exactly. Well said.

  22. Gwen Avatar

    Good post Alex. You know I am still in the painful process of shape-shifting for the kingdom. Having experience in both mega church and missional church, one thing I love about the mega church is the opportunity to inspire other apostles who have never been taught how much fun it is to play in the dirt. It’s rich with opportunity to teach and transform from the inside out.

  23. dave nederhood Avatar

    great. thanks alex. you’ve ruined my day…
    i mean, here i was trying my best to stumble through another week, attempting to patch together some sense of direction for an 83 year old church that is more ready than it realizes to become a missional community… and you go and attach all kinds of significance to it … “how the west will be won”… and all that.

    you know, sometimes its almost creepy how the Spirit works bringing people to the same conclusions in different places – like how i started thinking in principle about the emergence of a new kind of church about a year before i met mcclaren and got introduced to the “emergent” language…

    and now here you go promoting this model that thrives on heart & hospitality expressed in various locations as the hallmarks of health rather than numbers being compressed together (or centralized as you put it) as proof of fruitfulness.

    alas, this was my point as i conversed with a skeptical elder last week who suspects that i’m trying to turn us into a mega- or at least capitulate to mega-marketing… nothing could be further from my heart. now, of course, he’ll just think i stole the idea from you… which is not all bad – somedays i’d rather appear to be a poser than a pioneer! posers get fewer arrows in their backs. 😉

    thanks for thinking great thoughts at the same time as at least a few of us. and thanks for taking the time to express those thoughts more eloquently than i could.


  24. Hermann du Plessis Avatar

    Thanks for the last two posts Alex.

    It resonates well with us here in Africa. Our movement in Johannesburg is getting momentum and your posts really give words to our thoughts.

    The other night we decided that our vision for the movement will be to give vision to the individual for mission! Our movement wants to eat, sleep, breath and live mission….

    Anyway I have the rest of our movement reading your blog!!


  25. Alex Avatar

    Hermann, You’re welcome. I love the thought of a movement of fellow con-spirators reading my blog in south africa. Greetings and welcome to your cadre of subversives. Make the world human again.

    Dave, you’re welcome. I think. there’s a difference between original ideas and unique ideas. original ideas are ideas that many people have without reference to each other. Every now and then people around me change their language and tweak their thinking and even use my phrases [with and without quoting me], but in truth they were easy converts because they were headed in the same directions anyways. Many times, people will say to me, you were saying and doing what I was thinking but couldn’t figure out how to say or do it. There are many originals out there.

    Unique ideas on the other hand are rare things.

    I strive for neither original nor unique ideas. I strive for helpful ideas. Ideas that serve people who seek to serve others. Useful ideas.

    By the way, with regard to arrows…i have plenty of extra arrows if you need some. But I get the feeling from your email that you got plenty of arrows to pluck out all on your own. Keep it up. That’s how the west will be won again.

  26. nooc Avatar

    Alex… as bizzare a perspective as the book is written in, I’d be immensely curious to know your thoughts on the book “Mega Shift” if you get a chance to read it. To me it’s a must-read for those in the mega-church/home church discussion… not because it’s got the right take on things by any means…. but just because it’s SO different from any other book I’ve read on the subject.

    Anyway this is a timely post for me, Alex, as I seem to straddle various models simultaneously at the moment. To be candid, it’s the shaky, uncertain straddle of one foot on the dock and one foot on the departing boat… as opposed to the victor triumphantly straddling a vanquished foe.

    I work as a “missionary”, that is I raise my own support to be in ministry… but do so to work in a church in the heart of a North American city. My church is the smallest mega-church you’ll ever see! It has some of the same pitfalls of a structured western church, is far from perfect, yet in so many ways is the antithesis of so much of the critique levelled at the organized church today. Our community loves us, the local media loves us, we love each other… and our pace of growth eclipses all the churches in the city that are far bigger than us. Our annual volunteer appreciation Sunday, as corny as that sounds, regularly celebrates a volunteer list that is 20% longer than the actual physical number of people in our church (everybody does more than one thing around here).

    Yet even within this seemingly ideal context, I struggle on the edges. I am far from figuring out how to balance the tension between being missional and “missionary-ish” with being structured and “Staff-ish” in this context. I’m the first one doing this around here… the experiment… the guinea pig… and not entirely sure at this point if I’ll survive it. Also just found out I have to drop to half-time from full-time because I’ve only been able to raise half the support I need. I see the silver lining of the missional opportunity of getting a part-time job to keep it all running, I really do… still feeling like a bit of a kick in the gut right now though… so I’m really resonating with the “no budget, no backing, no training” thing.

    Nonetheless it’s encouraging to read the discussion and know I’m not alone… and that there are those like you Alex that even advocate for this tough path my family and I are on.

    I feel welcome. I belong here.


  27. […] Alex McManus has an awesome post at Into the Mystic on the need for both mega and “emerging”/house/missional type churches. It is rare to hear such lucidity – many Christian leaders are either/or, and in my opinion, are missing the point. Alex hits it on the head. Be sure and check it out. […]

  28. […] into the mystic… « Mega Church and Home Church Networks: Twin Trajectories and Why We Need Them Both Alex — October 29, 2006, 6:00 pm […]

  29. Ken Witcher Avatar

    What is a mega-church? I am in a church that was planted in 1998 and is now around 2000 in average attendance. I would assume that my church would fall into the mega-church category; but maybe not.
    We have seen over 600 people profess their faith in Christ this year alone. We are a chruch made up of mostly of unchurched new believers whose lives are so radically changed that they can’t help but bring everyone they know. I have been in churches of many shapes and sizes and have found my current church to be the most missional church I have attended. I was on staff until I recenly left to prepare to plant a church myself and I know the heart of the staff. Everything that we did was aimed at reaching those far from God to bringing them into a passionate relationship with Christ.
    I am serious when I ask about the definition of a mega-church. The purpose that drives my church planting heart for Paris France is to see insane numbers of people radically changed by Christ. Is that “missional” or “mega” church.

  30. Alex Avatar


    great question. and you’re exactly right.

    the figure I us for a mega-church is a church of 2000 members. I’m using the measures of the recent study on Mega Churches in the West by Scott Thumma from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

    WillowCreek, Saddleback, Mosaic, etc are, in my mind, great examples of what Mega Churches can be. The don’t grow because of excellent programming, but because excited participants invite their friends. In other words, relationships. Churches like the one you describe are effective in reaching unreached people with the gospel. Keep it up.

    True, they may “turn off” a certain kind of “emerging church” guy because they’re beyond the big corporate “feel” of these churches [well except for Mosaic. little corporate feel there. mosaic has more of a humanities style, artsy, theatre-company kind of feel to it. Absolutely no disrespect intended here to WC and SB both of which I admire].

    The issue to me is a missional heart: do they have ambition to touch the lives of unreached people with the gospel of Jesus Christ? One of the emphasis that I think is sorely lacking among many in the ’emerging” church is evangelism. We talk about mission. Good. We talk about incarnation. Very good. But why do we balk at evangelism? A lot of it has to do with the fact that many “emerging leaders” are churched christians who grew tired of a “marketing and sales approach” to spreading the gospel. Or, they’re tired of living in an environemnt that prioritizes reaching unreached people. Not exactly who I want to listen to when it comes to reaching unchurched people.

    The critique leveled at Mega Churches is of an impersonal, inauthentic, approach to reaching people. But those who come to faith via Mega Churches [I’m one of them] will disagree. They think their church rocks. I’ll take happy converts over christian critics everytime.

    Having said that, churches like WC and Mosaic are rare. I suspect that most churches –whether Mega Churches or House churches — struggle with the same issue of “for whom do we exist?” For ourselves or for outsiders? I think if we [house churches, Mega churches, and everything in between] would exist for Jesus and live for what he is passionate about, everything would become clear.

    And, having said that, and celebrating the fact that a new Mega Church springs up every week, it is not the Mega churches that will reach western culture. Western culture will be reached when Christ following people open their hearts and homes to the unreached, regardless of the church structures they favor. Any kind of church, big or small, that places this on the front burner makes me want to stand up and cheer.

    By the way, Ken, I have had Paris on my mind since 1983. Looking forward to staying in touch with your work there.

  31. tim sutherland Avatar
    tim sutherland

    Here’s a link from the Salt Lake City News that says that at least since the 90’s, the LDS is NOT the fastest growing religion or religious group. I thought it was an interesting piece of interest related to this post on house churches:
    Whatever the LDS did well up until the 90’s, it’s apparently not working nearly as well since then.

  32. tim sutherland Avatar
    tim sutherland

    Anybody care to comment on how the multi-site church is neither megachurch as it is commonly known nor (obviously) house church? Of the 8 locations we currently have, they range in size of total weekend attendance from 100 to over 2,000, and regardless of site attendance, there’s a philosophy of ministry that stresses small group involvement for everyone. So how does the multi-site church fit in the conversation about megachurches and house churches vs small churches? We are on mission to reach as many people as we can in as many ways and in as many communities as we can utilizing the centralized resources commonly associated with a “megachurch” but with most of our locations not resembling megachurches at all numerically. Thoughts? Thanks!

  33. Alex Avatar


    good to hear from you. i think multi-site is an option for how to structure growing churches or churches with ambition to grow regardless of the size. as you know, mosaic has been multisite since the mid 90’s and using decentralized small groups since the 80’s. These strategies were employed as a way of mobilizing Christ following people into ministry as well as a way of managing the high costs of property in the city of los angeles. mosaic went multi-site well before it was a mega church. today it has grown into a mega church that meets on multiple sites. one can use multiple sites with small groups, mid size churches or mega churches.

    the multi-site is a tweak on what growing churches have done for ages which is to go to multiple services on one site. multiple sites is a natural and practical progression from this and is definitely a option when considering growth strategies. A related but functionally different approach is planting new churches by “hiving” from a “mother” church. Both of these appear to be the lowest risk highest return strategies currently used.

    thanks, for the link to the article on the mormons. i’ll check it out later. my friend, bill, mentioned that the research he was using was from the last decade or so.

  34. victor Avatar

    Folowing your comments, I would like to say that The Lord is really building His Body, trough the transformation of our soul and body, to make us part of himself. We need to pass for this experience, and the more close to Him, the better. The big gatherings are unpersonal. We need to contact the Christ that is in each one of us, and be build together with others. I think that we do not need to organize any thing big. We only need to be joined to one or two more members in prayer and worship to Jesus and we will be spontaneously connected through the Spirit to the immensurable universal Church in space and in time. Glory be to God, the Father of our brother Jesuschrist!

  35. authentisch Avatar

    Bill – you wrote: “By the way, the earliest churches did have buildings: they were called SYNAGOGUES, and they did have budgets, and pulpits, and preaching, and organization. They followed the synagogue model”. I haven’t been able to find historical support for any component of this statement, let alone all of them. What you claim for synagogues can partially be shown to be the case. What I’m wondering about, though, is your assumption that the early christians were encouraged to do any of those things (or did in fact do them). Where do I need to look for evidence? Thanks.

  36. tim sutherland Avatar
    tim sutherland

    Seems to me that much of our discussion about the first century church having or not having buildings and budgets works off of the assumption that what is in Acts and the first century is somehow prescriptive for today instead descriptive as I believe N.T. Wright suggests. It would seem wise to me to view whatthe first century church did as only prescriptive in terms of doctrine, and not how they did or didn’t go about being the church organizationally. I think whether a church has or doesn’t have buildings and budgets is only pertinent as it pertains to whether or not buildings and budgets further the mission or hinder it. When building and budgets become the mission, then that’s when buildings and budgets become an issue. I realize that’s super-basic, but that’s how I see it. I think having philosophical stances for or against buildings and budgets per se is a rabbit trail. The question is always the quest, the mission. Thanks for letting me toss in my two cents, all!!

  37. Alex Avatar

    authentisch, i’ll look forward to bill’s answer on this one. no doubt that the early church annouced the gospel, and that some gave money to the poor or even towards missionary travels, and others may have even organized themselves in some way. i think the NT points in these directions. but the life bill describes feels alien to the story Luke tells.

    tim, exactly. you just made in a few precise words the direction i’m suggesting.

  38. Nameless Faceless Love Avatar

    Thanks for the excellent post, Alex.

    “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, AND breaking bread from house to house…..” (emphasis mine).
    Acts 2:46(a)

    In the temple (mega-church) and from house to house.

    Perhaps we spend too much time concerned with form (how we, the church, look) when the vital thing is the presence of Christ within His Body, and how He is shown to others.

    There are extremes, granted. Man-made, excessive form chokes out and hides Christ within that part of His Body. Too little adherence to what Biblical model does exist obscures His presence in that part of His Body, too.

    It’s just my two cents and it may sound trite but, if we all seek to be obedient to God’s Word and His call upon our own lives while respecting the same in others, won’t our obedience manifest Christ Himself in the Church at large, irrespective of form?

    When they finally hung our Lord on the cross, God’s Word tells us that Christ was “without form,” because of the brutal beating He had received. And yet, in spite of His unrecognizability to some when He died, even the unsaved centurion and the soldiers with him knew exactly who He was; “surely He was the Son of God,” they said.

    Perhaps Christ, as was true in His greatest moment upon Calvary that day, will not look like we think He will when He manifests Himself in His greatest moments in these days. Perhaps He, and we, will not look “normal” to us or like we thought He or we would.

    All the same, we are His sheep and we know Him. And if we will just cling to Him, follow Him and seek to obey Him, surely He will show us the rest.

    May we all share in this mutual journey, granting grace to one another as we have received from Him.

    I sure appreciate what you have written here, Alex, and thanks to everyone else, too, for the insightful comments that have followed.

    Blessings on the journey to you all in Christ Jesus……

  39. Nick Avatar

    I appreciate the insight. I was just talking with my friend about this in part. The mega church and any church, for that matter, is there as the “organization”, dare I say that resources the grass roots church. It gives training and resources that empower the house church to be the church.

  40. Alex Avatar


    Nice. I like the POV. I especially like the useage of “grass roots church” — kudos — over and against the term house church.

  41. Ruth Avatar

    Maybe I am wrong, however, many say that “Church is big business”. Many also say that such “big business” scare people away. I really enjoy the multi-site church that I attend. I believe that multi-site/multi-campus churches can reach more people and offer communities more resources. However, the “core leadership” (if you will) must be able to attend to all the needs of each sight so that each sight can gain complete strenth and understanding of the value of such leadership. Mega Church, House Church, Multi-site Church, what ever title you want to give them ,the bottom line is, can you lead all the people in all such multi-site locations in the same direction in line with the bible? The larger the congregation/locations get the more difficult it must become to keep the leadership, meaning and direction clear and clean. In addition, the larger the church the larger the budget, the larger the building. God bless all of those who have dedicated their lives to the teaching and true meaning of God.

  42. Greg Avatar

    Good post Alex. Of course it doesn’t make sense to establish a megachurch model for the basic training set for emerging apostles, evangelists, pastors, and church planters.

    I’m glad that you are able to see the need for both large, multi-site churches and smaller, more intimate home-based churches, and everything in between.

    I run into “either-or” thinkers in the church all the time. Gotta have one particular style of worship. Gotta do things the same way they’ve always done them. Gotta read from one particular Bible translation. Gotta be one particular size, following one particular model. Gotta serve one narrow cultural heritage. Gotta have one particular emphasis. Gotta focus mostly on community, or outreach, or teaching, or worship, etc.

    “Either-or” thinkers serving a “both-and” God.

    There’s one other thing I’d say about mega-church leaders that most people miss. That is that they combine 1) a tremendous God-given vision and 2) the instinctive ability to implement that vision. The senior pastor of the megachurch I currently attend has the greatest instincts for ministry of any human being I’ve ever personally observed. God has placed a compass for that ministry and vision within him. I’m sure he struggles with decisions at times, and I’m sure he seeks the wise counsel of others on a regular basis. But, he just seems to instinctively know the right course for the vision God has given to him.

    You can’t teach that. You can pray for it, I suppose. For the most part, I think you either have it or you don’t.

    I don’t agree with some of your conclusions, but I do agree with many of them. i was a member of a 50 member congregation, for example, that didn’t have the heart and hospitality that my megachurch has.

    I’d just say that the Kingdom of God needs both!

  43. Scott Avatar

    Corporate denotes togetherness, not leagal entity. Big churches are big. What more is there to say about that than that little churches are little. The early church was without buildings, etc because they were under persecution and because they kept selling all of their stuff to share with eachother. Believers in fellowship, koinonia, like to be together. It takes a lot of room to do that. Big building. Ta da!

  44. Craig Boyer Avatar
    Craig Boyer

    awesome post……. I’m about a year late reading it but whatever 🙂 I’m gonna copy, paste, and print it so I can reflect on it …….. and I’m not easily impressed. 🙂

    Say hi to Robbie Bell –


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