Heidelcast 139: Of Megachurches, Busses, And Woodchippers

More than a decade ago I noted on the HB that one of the dominant stories in American Christianity in the last 25 years has been the rise of the “megachurch.” According to a recent study published in June, 2009, in USA Today there are 1,300 “megachurches” in the USA. What is a megachurch? According to one survey published by Hartford Seminary, it is a congregation of 2,000 or more weekly attenders. At the time of the survey they found 40% of Protestant megachurches to non-denominational and 16% to be Southern Baptist. As of 2015 71% of them were said to be “evangelical” in their theology. One of the pioneers of the megachurch movement is Willow Creek and it has bee in the news recently. The main Willow Creek Community Church campus is in South Barrington, IL and their weekly attendance is reported to be more than 20,000. There are a lot of Christians in those congregations but news reports that life in a megachurch may not be all it is cracked up to be. Perhaps there are built-in flaws in the megachurch? What would you think if you heard a megachurch pastor talking about throwing members under a metaphorical bus and into a figurative wood chipper? You will in this episode.

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  1. If you look at the whole “vision casting” movement that was so popular in the emerging churches or to use the other name of “new paradigm churches” you see the same sort of language being expressed for over a decade. In the case of “vision casting” this was happening even in smaller churches. What happened to a pastor being a shepherd over his flock, even the ones who have some level of disagreement with the pastor?

    • Ken, I find resonance with your comment. Catch phrases like the ones you mentioned obscure the focus of Christian ministry. They distract from “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3, KJV).
      I have seen the beauty and “power” of churches that simply give Christ–without all the distractions and hoopla. Praise God for such churches.
      Anyway: I appreciate your comment. God bless you.

  2. Saddleback, Willowcreek, ACTS21, emergent church movement, etc… are Fruits of the same poisonous tree, Leadership Network. Warren, Hybels, Dan Sutherland, & Bob Buford using methodologies of Peter Drucker formed what began as Think Tank (Leadership Network) from it, what we know as the Mega Church, Multi-site, emergent church movements were birth.
    It also helped form sub-networks, Saddleback, Willowcreek, ACTS21 etc…
    I believe Tim Keller was also involved with Leadership Network as well.

    • Wonderful Statement that is absolutely right. I would only add another source, for decades Dallas Theological Seminary promoted a “new paradigm model” through the efforts of Aubrey Malphurs. Malphurs had some affiliation with the Leadership network too. Another name that comes up that had heavy influence is the writings and teachings of Ken Blanchard. He too goes back to Peter Drucker.

  3. Here’s a Podcast featuring Dan Sutherland lecturing at a Pastor’s Conference. Dan walks his audience through on How to Hijack their churches and how to make them accept the Drucker’s Methodologies at their churches.

    • Evangelical leaders seem to take most of their ideas from American corporate culture with little thought as to whether it’s a good idea for the church. I think Steven Covey invented the idea of “Servant Leadership” which is passed off as a model for Christian husbands by evangelicals. Then there are Drucker’s leadership ideas. Then the idea of growth at all costs, the financial networking, the diversity initiatives and LGBT inclusivity: all of these started in American corporate culture. Darryl Hart has been writing about this lately.

      We should ask, “what does the cult have to do with the culture? “

  4. Thanks for this! Luke 18:8. When the Lord returns will he find faith on the earth? The last days includes all the time between the Lord’s ascension and His second coming. We need to prepare. We are warned about the heresies of the last days again and again. If we do not pray and study, like the Berean Christians, comparing what we hear to the Scriptures, we will be deceived by those who twist the Word of God to further their own agenda. The Word of God is the only Truth for the Christian. The Reformed confessions are concise, summary study aids systematically organized under headings that help direct us to specific questions.

      • Hi Neal,

        I believe that it was in 2007, in Seattle:


        He also insisted on controlling the message of Mars Hill. The most frequent source of controversy in the church’s history was Driscoll’s unwillingness to entertain dissent. Although he preached often about his own pride and shortcomings, he brooked no disagreement from his associate pastors or lay elders. As Driscoll’s star grew in the mid-2000s, Mars Hill leaders who resisted his teaching found themselves castigated from the pulpit and removed from leadership.

        Driscoll called the process of removing doubting leaders “blessed subtraction.” In one of his more intemperate remarks, given the day after firing two elders in 2007, he said, “There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus, and by God’s grace, it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done.” He likened the process of removing dissenters to the Apostle Paul’s “putting somebody in the woodchipper.”

        His unwillingness to entertain doubt or uncertainty struck outsiders as the hallmark of an abusive environment, but insiders insisted that their message was “all about Jesus.” The theological rationale for silencing dissent came from his belief in the importance of authority and the inevitable unpopularity of truth. He frequently told both fellow church leaders and the congregation that a war against relativism and secularism would produce casualties.

    • Put it here but it fits below the Mark Driscoll comments. I was a pastor in the Seattle area back when the Driscoll issues were happening and that is part of why I looked at the issue of the emerging church and the vision casting movement in the first place. As this was coming out in the Seattle Times and on the websites setup by those who had been fired there is one aspect that is often overlooked but it is in the end the root of the issue — money. It turns out that for over a decade Mars Hill was running in the red nearly every month. Every year Driscoll would have to put on a heavy handed appeal for donations so that they could catch up on the deficits. In large part he was successful. The problem came when he kept expanding to ever more campus sites that meant ever more expenses. All of the dissent was not over his teachings, they were over his expansions and the other handling of the money that was taking place at the church. Any dissent that stopped the money flowing to Driscoll and his allies was immediately put down. In an interesting note, Driscoll learned about the book funding scheme from David Jeremiah, who continues many of the same practices to this day.

      The link to one of the “anti” sites is still active even though the links to the Mars Hill links don’t work.

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