Why Do We Criticize Large Churches?

Hardly a day goes by without seeing a number of Christians on social media criticizing large churches. Just like the Instagram meme in this post below, it’s assumed that just because a church is big, they must be compromising the gospel, not preaching the Bible, or some other lame charge. It seems that for far too many people in the Church today, large numbers of people automatically mean shallow, worldly teaching.

Such an Ignorant and Unhelpful Meme

But if that is the case, then Jesus must have been a complete failure. At least 11 times in the New Testament book of Mark alone, Jesus preached to crowds described like this:

– His fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region…
– The whole city was gathered together…
– Everyone is looking for you…
– People were coming to Him from every quarter…
– Many were gathered together so there was no more room…
– A great crowd followed….
– A crowd gathered again so He could not even eat.

In fact, Mark 1:45 says, “Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.” In Luke 16 the crowds were described as “a great throng,” and don’t forget that after one teaching session he fed a crowd of 5,000 – a pretty big number. By my count the four gospel writers remark about the large size of the crowds listening to Jesus at least 34 times.

So what is it with all the critics of large churches today? Of course there are some large churches that are shallow, but for every one of them, I can show you many more small ones that are just as shallow. Is it jealousy? Envy? I don’t know the reason, but I can tell you that in the most secular culture in our country’s history, this is the time to celebrate growth not criticize it.

I think it’s time to kill the myth that if you’re preaching a real gospel message with integrity, nobody will show up. Just try to sell that lame idea to extraordinary pastors and Bible teachers like Jack Graham, John McArthur, Greg Laurie, Michael YoussefJames McDonald, and many others.

Here’s a post featuring reasons I think large churches can be effective, and to deny the great work they’re doing in the world is frankly a bit nuts in my opinion. If you prefer a small church, great. I couldn’t be more thrilled, and I’ll never criticize you on social media for it.

But at the same time, let’s also celebrate those who are using a bigger net.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Excellent article Phil, very valid points. We all are running the same race, our goal is the same and still it’s saddening to see how many of us fall into the criticism game. We ( churches) should pick up the best points from each other and implement rather than focussing so hard on the negatives.

    • Yes – it certainly doesn’t help our witness to the world. Thanks Kim!

  • Nathan Jones

    During my six years serving at what was at the time the largest mega-church in North America, I was constantly chided by relatives who off-handedly dismissed the church, almost always without ever hearing a sermon (which were always deep and theologically sound) or seeing their tremendous local and international outreach impact. Over time, I started picking up on a thread – the doubters were all INTROVERTS. The mega-size seemed so socially oppressive to them that they needed an excuse to dismiss the entire organization, usually by calling it shallow. Since introverts (myself included) find more value in a few strong relationships than many superficial ones, I can understand why some extend that outlook to churches, even if it may not be right or even just.

    Mega-churches become small churches when you’re deeply involved in a small group, a church within a church.

    • Good point Nathan. Amazing how often critics have never actually experienced what they’re criticizing… :-)

  • Maryjo Petersen Castro

    Well said, Phil. Like Nathan Jones, I experienced the same thing with each mega church I’ve been on staff at. Cynicism is ugly.

  • Warren Bird

    I’m probably America’s most prolific researcher and writer about megachurches. Here are a couple of articles I wrote that show that in MANY (not all) big churches, there’s remarkable substance:

    Do Megachurches Provide a Better Religious Experience than Smaller Churches?
    leadnet.org/9-fascinating-facts-about-people-who-attend-megachurches/

    9 Fascinating Facts About People Who Attend Megachurches
    http://leadnet.org/9-fascinating-facts-about-people-who-attend-megachurches/

    Want more? See leadnet.org/world (facts about global megachurches) and leadnet.org/megachurch (more research)

    • Excellent stuff Warren! Thanks so much for adding to the conversation.

  • Chris Rapp

    Phil, you once again have hit the nail on the head. We attend a large church, 20,000+ weekly attendance meeting at 6+ campuses. Before we moved to this church a children’s pastor at my previous church told me “no one there can teach your kids about the Holy Spirit like I can”.

    I can say for certain that my kids have been able to experience things at our large church that they never could have at our smaller location. This space isn’t the forum to list it…but there’s no arguing it and that fine children’s pastor was utterly wrong.

    Our pastor says regularly that he’s asked “just how big do you think you have to be?” His answer is stellar: “There are 1.3 million people that live in our region of South Florida and only 10% regularly attend church. We will be big enough when we reach 100%”

    Keep up the good work.

    • That’s a great example of someone just “assuming” a myth about a large church. Thanks for sharing Chris!

  • “All that glitters is not gold”, but what is gold does glitter. There are crowds following the glitter and there are crowds following the gold. But there are no crowds following the rust.

    • Paul Birch

      That is a cracking comment, I believe I may have to quote you …..

  • Pingback: Quotes I Need To Keep – LifeNotes()

  • Phil, Good article! To all the pastors out there…. FEED His sheep!

  • Richard J Fairhead

    The biggest problem with the meme (and others like it) is they focus on ‘preaching’, which is technically only related to those not part of the Kingdom; what they refer to is teaching. Regardless of that technicality, ‘being church’ is so much more than what people call ‘preaching’. I score 2/20 on auditory learning and 18/20 on visual learning. Talks are almost a complete waste of time for me.

    The biggest problem I see is the competition… ‘my church is better than your church’ attitude. This is actually a western syncretism growing out of modernism. In the Kingdom do measurements really matter? What if God is calling you to something that appears to be a failure? Big or small the critical is to ‘do whatever he tells you’ as Mary commended the servants at the wedding in Cana. If your church is a mega church, Praise the Lord, if your church is a micro church, Praise the Lord!

    • Great points Richard. I was meeting with a church leadership team yesterday and we discussed how often “competition” happens. It would be so much better if we could each stay in our lane and finish the purpose God has called us to…