Megachurch Association of America

Megachurch Association of America

Megachurch Association of America

Megachurch
Association of America,
1950 Slippery Slope Drive,

Bald Tyre, California 92630.

Dear Saints,

We, the leaders of the modern phenomenon known as the church
growth movement or megachurch movement, wish to correspond with
the leaders of the past, namely the Old Testament prophets, Jesus
Christ, the apostles, the reformers and the revivalists, about
some differences between your methods and ours that are becoming
increasingly apparent. We cannot help but acknowledge that you
did a commendable job in advancing our heavenly Father’s
Kingdom.

We are especially inclined to admire your accomplishments
given that you labored under such difficult circumstances and
without the knowledge of our modern methods. How you built such
great and enduring walls for the King without the contemporary
straw and mortar that we find so helpful is a puzzling mystery to
us. Our motivation in writing to you is twofold. First, we would
like to obtain your official blessing on our new methods. We are
sure that you already approve of them and perhaps are envious of
our great success as you sit in glory watching us reap a
tremendous harvest for the Kingdom of God. Second, we have spent
many months examining your methods, and we feel that in light of
our modern advances a few of the numerous mistakes and errors
that you unfortunately fell into must be pointed out.

We do not consider ourselves superior to you. By the
providence of God, we were born on the cusp of this progressive
and superior methodology. While we greatly respect the methods
employed 2000 years ago by our Saviour, Jesus Christ, we flatly
reject the use of His methods in today’s culture. We desire
our ministries to glorify Jesus, not necessarily by following His
example or by using His methods, but, instead, by reaping a large
harvest for Him using our contemporary methods. Our hearts
overflow with thanks to God who has graciously shown us a better
way to live and minister in these turbulent times.

It cannot be denied that ours is an important movement in the
annals of church history. In 1970 there were only 10 megachurches
in America. Today there are over 800 such churches. Last year
brother Bill Hybels in Illinois had over 100,000 church leaders
attending his church growth seminars while brother Rick Warren
(of Purpose-Driven Life fame) had 250,000 leaders attend his
seminars. Please note dear brother Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church
in Texas is soon projected to have 30,000 in weekly church
attendance.

We have managed to grow our churches aggressively, by the
grace of God, in an era of declining church interest and
blossoming secularization. Our movement has been dubbed "the
seeker-friendly movement." This title sums up our criticism of
the ministries of all those to whom this letter is addressed.

As we read the Bible looking for corroboration of our methods,
we have to conclude that God is doing a new thing among us. One
of our brothers was recently quoted in a newspaper saying,
"Don’t forget, Christ used user-friendly language. We
thought this idea might serve as some type of Biblical precedent
for our approach."

Then someone pointed out that in Matthew 13, Jesus stated that
the reason He spoke in parables was so that people might hear
Him, yet not understand Him. This idea sent our search for
Biblical justification back to square one. Therefore, we must
conclude that there is no Biblical precedent for what we are
doing. Nevertheless, we know that our methods are right, and we
will boldly let our rising numbers speak for themselves.

It is evident that in today’s culture your archaic
methods could never produce the results we have achieved. We
cannot bear the thought of proclaiming to this generation words
that follow such as spoken by Isaiah: "Come now, let us
reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall
eat of the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall
be devoured with the sword."
(Isaiah 1:18-20)

The above verses violate another one of our key principles: we
never imply that someone is guilty of sin. After all, it is the
Holy Ghost’s job to bring about conviction of sin. Since
the Holy Ghost convicts of sin so rarely in our churches, it
would be highly presumptuous for us to take upon ourselves this
role. We have uncovered many of our guiding principles through
the use of modern marketing techniques that have confirmed that
unchurched people and backsliders are offended at direct and
plain speech such as Isaiah’s above.

God’s ministers must not make anyone feel uncomfortable.
We want people to have fun in church. We do not want the
atmosphere to be unfriendly or offensive.

The Bible teaches that we should esteem others as better than
ourselves (Phil 2:3). Yet the idea that one must have a positive
self image in order to be happy and healthy has so permeated the
church that one would be considered mad if he were to question
it.

Even though this idea has no basis in Scripture, no basis in
church history, and you men of old believed the exact opposite of
this modern doctrine, we gladly embrace it since the notion of
positive self-esteem has such power to attract people to our
churches. How repulsive to the unchurched would Ezekiel’s
words be today - "Then shall ye remember your own evil ways,
your doings that were not good, and shall clothe yourselves in
your own sight for your iniquities and for your
abominations."
(Ezekiel 32:31)

As you can see, we are committed to removing anything from the
church that has the potential to injure a sinner’s
self-esteem. Our beloved brother, Robert Schuller has represented
our position well when he said, "I don’t think anything has
been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of
Christianity that has proven more destructive to human
personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism
enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian
strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and
sinful condition." (Christianity Today, Oct. 5, 1984).

In addition to removing anything offensive, we have added
numerous things to the life of a church that are very attractive
to the carnal mind of the lost. A notable newspaper summarized
our approach this way - "Gone are traditional religious dogmas,
rituals, and symbols, replaced by uplifting songs and sermons.
Congregants are taught that - through God - they are victors, not
victims. The messages are encouraging and easy to swallow, and no
one is called a sinner. It’s ‘Jesus meets the power
of positive thinking.’ There’s none of that old-time
religion; none of that helland- damnation, fire-and-brimstone
preaching. The idea is to be inclusive and inoffensive.
There’s no talk of controversial subjects, such as abortion
or homosexuality.

Worked into a frenzy by the 10 piece (rock) band and
300-member choir, dozens of slick music videos and, yes, the
wave, congregants were enraptured." (The Christian Science
Monitor, Dec. 30, 2003)

Compare the above description to accounts of Jonathan
Edwards’ infamous and shameful sermon, "Sinners in the
Hands of an Angry God." We cannot countenance such preaching as
this – "The devils watch them (the unchurched); they are
ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them,
like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have
it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his
hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly
upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell
opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit
it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost. The bow of
God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the
string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains
the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that
of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that
keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your
blood."

Under Edwards’ despicable, oldstyle preaching scores of
people were smitten by a glimpse of their lost and sinful
condition to the point of utter brokenness manifested by much
weeping and wailing. How this must have wrecked the
congregants’ selfesteem, which, undoubtedly, was already
made fragile by his frequent use of negative language. We are
certain that Edwards often spoke of human depravity, hell, the
dangers of sin, the necessity of repentance, and other such
topics that have no place in our messages.

As you can see, Edward’s approach was certainly wrong.
Oh, what a triumph God is working through us over the archaic
methods of yesterday!

A striking difference between us and the Apostle Paul is his
seeming indifference to numerical success. He seemed content to
focus his ministry on building a pure bride, even if numerically
small. This evidently required that Paul have the battlefield
mindset of a soldier, which is much different than ours. We
dislike the fact that he was always fighting and contending.

Paul was found disputing against, reasoning with, speaking
boldly to, preaching to, persuading, exhorting, declaring, and
warning their hearers. It is not surprising to us that Paul ended
up in prison. Perhaps God was trying to speak to him there about
changing his methods.

We could write for many more pages about the deficiencies of
those who ministered before AD 1950. Certainly the reformers such
as Tyndale and Luther were wrong in their approach in the 1500s.
John Bunyan was obviously off track since his dogmatism caused
him to be locked up in the Bedford jail for over a decade in the
1600s. We condemn the offensive manner in which the likes of
George Whitefield, John Wesley, and scores of other fanatics
preached repentance in the open air to the unchurched in the
1700s. Perhaps the worst example of such old-style fanaticism was
exhibited by William and Catherine Booth, founders of the
Salvation Army, in the 1800s. It gives us pangs of nausea when we
contemplate their shameful and embarrassing tactics.

By looking at a description of Whitefield’s preaching,
it is plain to see the unchristian tone of his sermons. Bishop
J.C. Ryle said that Whitefield was "perpetually telling you about
your sins, your heart, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the absolute
need of repentance, faith, holiness."

And what were the effects of these unchristian methods on the
hearers? "Most were drowned in tears. The Word was sharper than a
two-edged sword. The bitter cries and groans were enough to
pierce the hardest heart. Some of the people were as pale as
death; others were wringing their hands; others lying on the
ground; others sinking into the arms of friends; and most lifting
up their eyes to Heaven and crying to God for mercy." (George
Whitefield p. 487)

The damage done to the hearers, particularly to any unchurched
people that might have been present, can be clearly seen. With
such deleterious effects as these, it is no wonder that Luther,
Tyndale, Bunyan, Booth, the early Methodists, and many others
were so bitterly opposed by the more mature and pragmatic church
leaders of their day.