Yesterday over at ReKnew.org, Greg Boyd responded to a common objection. Can you have an Anabaptist mega-church?
Some may claim that a church can espouse an “Anabaptist” theology (or partially), but if they are large enough to be considered a “mega” church they can’t really be an Anabaptist congregation.
I’ve heard this skepticism before. In fact, I have personally discussed this objection with Greg, since Woodland Hills Church has evolved into an Anabaptist congregation, and because I entered the Mennonite USA back in June of this year to pastor an Anabaptist church in Virginia.
Here’s an excerpt of what Greg had to say in his post:
Ironically, those who argue mega-churches can’t be Anabaptist churches are assuming, in the process of raising this objection, a non-Anabaptist definition of church as a weekend gathering. If the leadership of Woodland Hills thought that our “mega” weekend gathering was “the church,” the objection would indeed be valid. But we don’t think this, precisely because this would be a very non-Anabaptist position to assume!
I was encouraged to read Greg’s response because it reflects my own thoughts, and my personal experience as well.
After leaving vocational ministry within the SBC in 2006, and meeting in “organic” house churches for five years, I became very critical of organized churches, especially mega-churches. And for good reason. Mega churches have a tendency to base their success on attendance in their corporate gatherings, and have little to no concern for real community.
Meeting in homes for several years, deconstructing and reconstructing my understanding of the church, was necessary for me to see the benefits of face-to-face community, as well as the larger “mega” gatherings.
It was during that time that I was becoming an Anabaptist. And I deeply resonated with this concern that Anabaptists have for community and keeping it simple. Historically, they’ve done it better than most.
Anabaptist theology and practice rightfully recognizes that face-to-face community is essential in being the Body of Christ in any given location. So, there is a legitimate concern that community might be lost if a church grows beyond a certain point. Some would say it will be lost.
But is this necessarily so?
Again, listen to Greg’s response:
What Woodland Hills Church (as well as and the Meeting House in Toronto and other mega-Anabaptist Churches that may be out there) demonstrates is that we don’t have to chose between embracing the church as community, on the one hand, and holding a large weekend gathering, on the other. There’s nothing intrinsically anti-kingdom about large gatherings. After all, large crowds flocked to Jesus, and the early Christians in Jerusalem met in large groups in “Solomon’s porch” (Acts 5:16-19). The key, however, is to always remind people that the primary expression of church is not the large group, but the smaller communities that come together in houses to share life, study the word, worship and minister together.
I’ve discovered that it is possible to grow in number (corporately) and maintain real community. With it will come challenges, but they’re opportunities to build the Kingdom. We should embrace them.
It may be that the maturity level of some believers has them seeing a weekend “mega” gathering as church. They are just passive receivers of sermons. I think you’re always going to have people who think that way. I’ve even seen them in house churches. They just come, sit, and leave.
So it’s like this. If the leadership and core members hold fast to promoting and practicing sincere relationships in face-to-face community, the church will stay the course of vibrant Kingdom community and outreach.
I appreciate Greg helping us to see the way forward.
Are you a part of an Anabaptist church? How has your church responded to the idea of growing into a large congregation as you reach your community? Do you believe it’s possible to grow numerically and maintain a deep level of community? Please, share your thoughts.
D.D. Flowers, 2013.
Read Greg’s entire post here at ReKnew.org.