Whenever the subject of missional church, megachurch or attractional church comes up, I get confused. I sense I’m not alone. It may be why we end up talking past each other.
See if this makes any sense.
Attractional has nothing to do with size. Sometimes I sense people think megachurch = attractional, but they’re not the same thing. You can be a small church and attractional. (I know. You’re going to say this is true, but that you can’t be a megachurch without being attractional. But just hold on…)
Some megachurches appear to be missional. I’ll grant that some megachurches seem to be equivalents of suburban Wal-Marts. A cynic would say consumerism is rampant within megachurches, and I would agree in many cases. The problem is: not every megachurch is equally guilty. I think of Imago Dei Community in Portland, which is committed to “taking the whole gospel, to the whole person, to the whole world.” They are not the ideal church, but they are large and appear to be missional. They avoid many of the trappings of mega-ministries as much as anyone, such as consumer-driven outreach or large buildings (they don’t have their own worship space).
They may be the exception, and I’m not saying they’re perfect. But they really do seem to be missional even though they are large.
Large ministries have advantages. They have shortcomings, but they also have some pretty big advantages. And depending on how you structure, large churches may be more strategic and more economical than smaller churches. Not always, but sometimes.
For instance, Imago Dei is big enough to put muscle behind initiatives like Love Portland and Advent Conspiracy. Redeemer is big enough to start a Church Planting Center and Hope for New York. This isn’t to minimize what a large number of organic churches could do in the same cities. But in some ways, a larger church can coordinate their efforts and combine the best of both worlds: small clusters of missional groups influencing at the grassroots level combined with larger initiatives.
Mega may not be wrong as much as it’s passé. My friend Dan MacDonald says that small and organic is in. We’d rather go to a small organic fruit shop or an organic, free-range butcher than a grocery store chain. Is it just coincidence that we’re also into smaller, organic churches at the same time? Could it be that we are more influenced by culture than we realize?
This doesn’t make small and organic wrong. But I’d hate for it to only be trendy.
Bottom line: There are some very good discussions going on about church size and attractional vs. missional. But the conversation has to be more nuanced. Not all megachurches are attractional, consumeristic beasts, and not all smaller churches that claim to be missional are indeed missional. If only life were that simple.
Let the discussion continue.