Can a “Successful” Church Fulfill its Calling?

Yesterday, I posted asking if you preferred a large church or a small church.  Today, I want to quote a couple of paragraphs from a book I am reading and ask for your response.  This quotation is taken from Ruth A. Tucker’s book, Left Behind in a Megachurch World.  The quote comes from the introduction of the book on page 16.  When you read “left-behind church”, it is the author’s way of describing the typical small church in America, which is under 100 members.  Ruth Tucker writes:

 Left-behind churches are in a unique position to reach out in community service with the love of Christ and to be countercultural – particularly in the area of materialism and self-centeredness.  Left-behind churches can reach out in their neighborhoods more effectively in many ways than can the megachurch.  They are part of the community themselves, and it is out of their poverty that they most effectively serve others.

That is not to say that megachurches are not concerned with caring ministries.  Indeed, to suggest that megachurches do not give money to help tsunami victims would be mean-spirited and false.  They sponsor mission projects and have access to volunteers and funds that no left-behind church could ever match.  But in matters of lifestyle, the megachurch mentality promotes an outlook that embraces materialism far more than repels it.  In that realm, the megachurch world has abdicated its responsibility.  And, considering its very nature of being defined by size and success, can it ever be a credible advocate for a Christianity of sacrifice and self-denial?

Do megachurches, by their very nature, promote materialism and self-centeredness?  Does the small church better reflect the Christian ideals of caring and self-sacrifice?

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4 Responses to Can a “Successful” Church Fulfill its Calling?

  1. Tom says:

    I think that it would depend on the church. Mainly it’s leadership. I’ve seen large churches that aren’t very materialistic and some that are. The same with small churches. [It seems though that a small church is materialistic because they aspire to be large, while a large church is this way because God has blessed them and they’re not really sure how to use the blessing]. This is something that those on the inside of a particular church can gauge better.

    But, to a nonbeliever, a large church seems to be contradictory and pushes them away–even if that church is going out of it’s way to not be self-centered and materialistic because a large church, on the surface, seems to always be getting more and more and better and better equipment and such. I guess what I’m getting at is, to the unbeliever, since a large church usually has the ability to be on the cutting edge of things because it’s blessed financially, it appears that they’re just trying to get the “latest and greatest”, like many unbelievers do/want, and they don’t, on the surface, see any difference.

    I’ll never forget when this past year I was coaching track and field for a Christian school [which was part of a large church]. I saw my old track coach for high school and started to talk to him. He asked about our facilities. He was really surprised when I told him, “we don’t have a range to throw the discus and shotput in. We just through into a field filled with rocks. We call it the wasteland,” and he said, “What the junk? Won’t the church pay for you guys to have a decent throwing facility and track so you don’t throw in a field and run in a parking lot? You have everything else up there!”

  2. Tim Farley says:


    Thanks for commenting. I think the author’s point was to say that churches (and individuals) proclaim thngs about Christianity simply in the way they present themselves (their lifestyle). Like you said, to an unbeliever, a large church seems materialistic and self-centered (at least on the surface). This, I believe, is Ruth Tucker’s point. Does this mean that a small church can minister to many that a large church cannot?

  3. Tom says:

    I hate when you miss the point of what an author was getting at. 😛

    Does this mean that a small church can minister to many that a large church cannot

    I would say yes. If that small church is in an area where many are disenfranchised by/with a large church that is near by, even if “Large church A” is really only materialistic to an outsider.

  4. Robynne says:

    The first paragraph touches on something I ish-mentioned in my comment on the last post.
    Element started small, reached out into the community, and became home to many people.
    However, it hasn’t stayed small, and continues to reach out into the community. But I do think that we have kept that sentiment that we started out with and that is why it continues to feel more like a small church as it grows.
    That “large church feel” is part of what turned me off to First Christian. But, a lot of people liked it. There are definitely people who a large church appeals to more than a small church, and vice versa.

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