Do We Need More Mega-Churches?
by Missionary Bill
“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” Psalm 127:1 (KJV)
It is easy to look at any one of the many mega-churches that cover the landscape of America these days and believe that God has done a great thing. But has he? It is easy to assume that such a church has been blessed by the Lord and could not have reached the heights of weekly attendance, membership and financial security without some sort of divine intervention. However, this may be the furthest thing from the truth...
Let’s take a moment to look at a warning that Jesus gives in Matthew 7:13-27 (KJV):
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
There were more then a few well respected religious leaders around while our Lord Jesus Christ and John the Baptist went about their earthly ministries. Outwardly these leaders appeared to be doing just what God wanted them to do. Whether they were Pharisees (who believed in a resurrection for the dead; Example: the Apostle Paul was a Pharisee) or Sadducees (who believed in no resurrection), they were called Vipers (snakes) by both John and Jesus. Why? Because they were doing works which made them look good in the eyes of their followers without leading them to repentance. Their works did not meet with God’s approval and even though they were certain they were doing good and living up to what was taught in the Old Testament, their spiritual eyes were closed by the devil and they ignored the truth when it was made plain to them.
(Left to Right: Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Jack Hyles)
Today we are also surrounded by religious leaders who appear to be Christian and preach about building great works for the Lord. They talk the talk and contrary to examples like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart from the Pentecostal movement, or even Jack Hyles who claimed to be a Fundamental Baptist but cheated on his wife and lied about many things, many actually try to walk the walk. Does that mean they are doing the work of God? Not always.
(Pastor Joel Olsteen of Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas)
If we are to know them by their fruits then these mega-church leaders like Joel Olsteen should have churches filled with saved Christians who go out to win souls, encourage other Believers to grow in Christ, study and learn a correct version of the Bible and glorify God through Jesus Christ. Is that is what is going on in these huge ministries? Not that I can see. Most of the sermons given by mega-church preachers like Olsteen are feel good, health and wealth gospel messages that do not encourage sinners to repent and be saved, do not encourage their members to win souls or to help others grow in Christ, often encourage the use of new and incorrect translations or versions of God’s Word and often glorify themselves and their ministries rather than God.
Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 (KJV):
“But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
The Apostle Paul warns us to beware of false apostles and deceitful workers who pretend to be doing the work of God. Paul was always concerned that the people he won to Christ stayed true to the faith he delivered to them by following the teachings of Jesus. They were not saved to question, debate or discuss scripture or doctrine because those things were already decided and delivered to them by the Apostles. Instead, these Believers were to win souls, baptize Believers to be added to their churches and set an example by living a life that was different and opposite from the evildoers and idol worshipers of their time. Christians were to gather together in an assembly to encourage each other, bare one another’s burdens, study the Scriptures and worship God, not find ways to make each other feel better or be successful. The money they collected was not used to build big and beautiful buildings or make their preachers rich; it was used to take care of the basic needs of the ministers, help the poor by setting an example that would draw people to Christ and provide the funds needed by Missionaries to travel and preach the Gospel.
I am not opposed to large churches. My Bible Training came from the Liberty Bible Institute. That was a ministry of the late Dr. Jerry Falwell of The Old Time Gospel Hour. Falwell built up the Thomas Road Baptist Church from a small group of Believers who began by meeting in a soda pop bottling plant to a large church with thousands of members. The difference between his large church and many of the mega-churches is that he never wavered from the Biblical model of what a church ought to be and what it should accomplish for the Lord. I never saw one TV broadcast that went out from that church that did not feature a call for sinners to repent and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Likewise, many of his sermons or those of his guest preachers called for Christians to obey the Bible and live by its teachings. Church members and the staff reached out to their local community and a lost world in many ways and always did it to win souls and glorify Jesus, not build a mega-church or make themselves or their ministries wealthy.
The last thing I want to do is encourage anyone to constrain the work of God. If the Lord wants someone to build a great work that obeys and passes on the teachings of the Bible and glorifies Jesus Christ, I am all for it regardless of the size of the building or the number of the congregation. What I am not for are the snake oil salesman that pretend to love the Lord, preach health and wealth fluff which is not what the Bible says ought to be preached and make themselves and their ministries rich. I would rather have a small church building filled with saved, soul winning Believers that invited people to church and lived the Christian Life as outlined in the Word of God than some huge structure that acted like a circus tent attracting people to attend because of the big show going on inside and made sinners feel comfortable in an unsaved condition.
“There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.” Ezekiel 22:25-26 (KJV)
The main thrust of most mega-church preachers is to stay positive. Teachings about sin, hell and death (except for how to grieve) do not seem to be on their list of topics for sermons. Well, if there is little or no mention of sin, hell or death, how can you preach about a Savior that experienced death on the cross to pay for our sins so that we can avoid hell if we choose to believe in Jesus. Thats easy: Many of these preachers simply ignore the gospel and preach as if everyone in their audience was saved or right with God. Instead of teaching their congregations sound doctrine and what the Bible says about Christian conduct and living, they ignore Scriptural truths and replace them with “Prosperity Gospel” lies.
Years ago a Christian friend asked me how to win her grandmother to Christ. I explained that she needed to win her grandmother just like I won her: share the Gospel with her in a clear and concise way. I happened to use The Roman Road To Salvation back then and still use it today. However, my friend listened to the advice of another Christian who attended a church that did not teach soul winning as a Christian responsibility, but rather told their members to point people to Jesus. Huh? I cannot think of a better way to point people to Jesus than by simply sharing the Gospel with them in an easy to understand and direct way. My friend bought some vague book from a Christian bookstore that featured animal characters which were supposed to indicate a person’s need to be saved and gave it as a gift to her grandmother. Not long after that her grandmother died and, as far as I know, did so in an unsaved condition. Such is the sin of the health and wealth gospel preachers and teachers. They are sending people to hell in record numbers and have been doing so for years.
“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.”
These verses are a constant reminder of the fruitlessness of attempting to build any ministry that does not conform to the authority of the Bible. It is easy to forget that the Bible is the Word of God and Jesus is that Living Word. A building full of people who each carry a different version of the Bible and do not understand how these versions corrupt the real Word Of God as delivered to us by the King James Version is not a New Testament Church. A building full of unsaved people that just happen to like the concept of God is not a New Testament Church. A building filled with saved people who sit back and get fat on the preaching of their pastor without any interest in serving God apart from holding some impressive voluntary job in the church or giving money is not a New Testament Church. A building full of people, saved and unsaved, gathered from other churches by the lure of pretty words, exciting music or good showmanship that are not taught to accept Jesus as their Savior, win others to Christ, serve the Lord and glorify God through all they do is not a New Testament Church.
When you speak of churches with a “positive message” I cannot think of a more positive message than John 3:16 (KJV):
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I don’t know about you, but I feel great that I am saved and have a Father in Heaven that answers prayers and loves me. And the older I get the more I understand that being saved is not about getting rich, being successful or feeling good all the time. There is nothing wrong with those things, however, there are times when riches cannot help you. There are times when being successful can create more problems than solutions. There are times when feeling bad causes you to change your behavior, win someone to Christ or help someone in need. These are all lessons that many mega-church pastors will never learn or teach because they refuse to acknowledge the authority of the Bible. I have heard some modernist preachers call the Bible a “Paper Pope”. I call it the living Word of God and am thankful to be able to read and follow its teachings.