“The Holy Spirit is the quickening power with which Jesus the Lord builds up Christianity in the world with His body, i.e., as the earthly-historical form of His own existence, causing it to grow, sustaining and ordering it as the communion of His saints, and thus fitting it to give a provisional representation of the sanctification of all humanity and all human life as it has taken place in Him.” Karl Barth CD IV.2
Although we might like to think that we plant churches or that our skills grow churches, I would have to agree with Barth’s argument that the up-building and formation of the Christian community in any form is the work of the Spirit. We merely participate in the ongoing work of reconciliation in the world. If we say that mega-churches, even with all of their faults and with all of our disagreements, are not real churches, then we can hardly claim higher ground. Our smaller churches are equally as flawed.
Here is where I find some agreement with Jim, “Such pastors (mega-church castors) aren’t truly pastors – they are merely functionaries, public speakers. Pastors know their flock just as shepherds know their sheep. It is no accident at all that the early Church seized on the analogy of the pastor as shepherd. For that reason, a church which is so big that the pastor can’t or doesn’t know those who come is no longer a Church as such but a group, an ‘audience,’ nothing more.”
Although I would not word it so strongly, and I certainly wouldn’t say all mega-church pastors aren’t truly pastors, I do have problems with the term “mega-church pastor.” In my mind, a minister cannot pastor more people than those he knows personally. Being a pastor is a personal profession.
When someone uses the term mega-church pastor for me, my vocation and calling is cheapened.
It is kind of like saying a person who prepares McDonald’s burgers is a chef. Don’t we think that a real chef who has spent years studying and training for their vocation might be a little miffed at being compared to someone who slaps sauce and a patty on a bun? If we are going to call ourselves pastors, then we must take seriously Scripture’s call for us to be shepherds.
True shepherds know their sheep. True shepherds are involved and actively participate in the lives of all of those in their congregation. In my opinion, the sheer size of a large church hampers the vocation. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it can’t be done; I just think it is far more difficult in a mega-church (we mustn’t become dogmatic about these things). But hey, maybe I am simply jealous!?!?
I hope the saints of City Harvest Church find their way through this terrible abuse of power (if it turns out the claims are true). We must remember that, in some way, each one of us is responsible for the culture of celebrity we find ourselves in.
At the end of the day, Jesus must be at the heart of everything we do as pastors and churches. Not only in name but also in deed! We must continually question and reflect upon what we are doing and how we are doing it because as Barth also says,
“The Church confesses God as it talks about God. It does so first by its existence in the action of each individual believer. And it does so secondly by its specific action as a fellowship, in proclamation by preaching and the administration of the sacraments, in worship, in its internal and external mission including works of love amongst the sick, the weak, and those in jeopardy. Fortunately, the reality of the Church does not coincide with its action. But its action coincides with the fact that, alike in its existence in believers and its communal existence, as such it speaks about God. Its action is “theology” in both the broader and the narrower sense.” Karl Barth et al., Church Dogmatics, Volume I The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1 (2nd ed.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2004), 3.