The Evangelical Obsession with Bigness
Recently, I was encouraged to listen to a message given by one of America’s “leading pastors” (whatever that means), a man who pastors one of the largest churches in the country, a fine pastor whose heart does beat, it seems, for the need of people to follow Christ. All well and good.
But the guy who introduced him, prior to his speaking to a large national conference, went on for the better part of ten minutes singing the praises of this particular pastor. I kid you not; for nearly ten minutes, he lavished praise and adoration on a guy who, last time I checked, put his britches on one leg at a time. A significant part of the praise had to do with the outward manifestations of the man’s “greatness”, related to the size of the church he pastors, and other size-related stuff.
It’s all about being “big”, having numbers, being able to boast (“in the Lord”, of course) about the bottom line of baptism, bodies, and bucks. Yes, there will be, at many such gatherings, some nodding acknowledgement given to “those courageous and faithful pastors who labor in the little country churches”, yada yada yada.
But we don’t believe it. And we don’t mean it.
Because what we really believe is not demonstrated by the words we say, but by the things we do. And what we do, almost without fail, is to celebrate the superstars, to insist upon parading the “success stories” of Christian ministry (defined as those who pastor the “fastest-growing churches”) before people for all to admire (and, I suppose, emulate). Because we’re addicted to bigness, and far too many evangelicals worship it more than they worship Jesus. I read recently of one conference which took a Twitter poll or something asking prospective participants to vote upon who ought to be invited to speak at the conference. Funny thought occurs to me…wouldn’t it be funny for a bunch of Christians to get together and nominate, I don’t know, Nancy Pelosi or somebody…
So here’s a suggestion for the next big denominational conference of Christians (actually, I’ve got two): Suggestion 1: Take the names of all of the denominationally-ordained men serving in pastorates in the movement, put ‘em in a hat, pray about it, and then draw out a few names and let them be the speakers at the next big denominational shindig. Suggestion 2, if Suggestion 1 is a bit too radical (and it probably is): get every one of your denominational superintendents to nominate, say, three candidates. One would come from a church of over 500, one from a church with 150-499 people, and one from a church with an attendance of less than 150 people. Put all those names into a hat, pray, and then draw out as many speakers as you’d need.
How refreshing would THAT be?