Can mega-churches be missional? I learned early when considering this form of question to be sure I understood the difference between can and may. One speaks to ability and the other to permission. Some of you may have seen the conversation several years ago between Ed Stetzer and David Fitch on the subject – Part One and Part Two. Asking the question today may be jumping the shark. The question still turns on what is meant by missional.
Steve Knight recently posted his notes from a talk given by Tony Jones. In Letterman format Steve reported on Jones’ “Ten Myths About the Missional Church.” Number eight, “Missional is a new way to ‘do church.’” People do co-opt the term for pragmatic purposes. So while Tony sees this as a myth, it is still a practice.
Brad Brisco and Lance Ford continue to get the word out about the Sentralized Conference and the ongoing missional conversation from their perspective. I plan to make the trip to Kansas City in September for the event.
Over the past ten years I have had countless conversations with young staff pastors/ministers of large/mega-churches. Knight’s post, the Sentralized Conference, the Missional Manifesto, and these conversations combined to ask the, “Can mega-churches be missional,” question all over again. Add in a recent post by Bill Kinnon on the root of abusive churches and abusive pastors and you may understand why the question is still pertinent. These young staff members describe the lack of cultivated relationships between both staff members and with their Senior pastors – even after several years as part of the team. Read that again.
A person should not draw generalizations from this instance. If Kinnon is correct and relationships in a local congregation are the crux of the matter when it comes to abuse in and by churches and pastors, certainly this is an illustration as to how that happens. Maybe these young staff slots on the organizational chart do not provide regular face time with the Senior Pastor. If so, it is too big.
Some Senior Pastors seem fueled to follow these sorts of relational patterns by attending what Kinnon refers to as Messiah conferences. They are not new. Seldom has anyone couched the events in those terms. The complex is easy to come by when the aspiration is to be the messiah. This is not new.
Some years ago I invited an emerging, not Emerging, denominational leader to consider speaking at our church. We were not big enough. The personal vision of the now significant leader required saying no to invitations he to that point had accepted. The intended, or un-intended, communication was that if your church was bigger, had more influence, and could provide one more place to launch a larger platform it may have been a go. I watch this from a distance today. The distance is size and interest.
Relationships cannot be valuable only insofar as they advance your agenda, platform, or brand. I cannot get conversations with these young staff pastors/ministers out of my mind. The craving is for a connectedness – face time – that gives him or her a sense of shared vision and community. They are not looking for privileged access. That I typed that makes me cringe. What they gets is little different than Facebook. One day the shift will occur where we quit selling ourselves as saviors of the church and as gurus of the grand. We will remember Jesus shared meals not leadership books.