Via Media

Via Media


Supersize Me, Jesus

posted by awelborn

A reflection on the megachurch, using T.D. Jakes as a starting point:

Obviously, Jakes himself can’t do what the preacher did when I was growing up: write and deliver every sermon and visit every elderly shut-in and preside at prayer meeting on Wednesday nights and counsel every struggling couple or wayward teenager who needed counseling and send every single one of the dearly departed to his or her reward. Potter’s House, like other megachurches, has a corporate organization chart: Below Jakes there are several pastors, and below the pastors a host of ministers.

Some megachurch congregations are mostly white, some mostly Latino and some, like Potter’s House, are mostly black. But Potter’s House doesn’t fit the traditional role of the black church in America as, at least in part, a political institution pushing for social change. "We walk in the shadow of those great ghosts" such as King and Abernathy, Jakes said, but he is resolutely nonpartisan: "I’ve never seen an eagle fly on one wing. I’ve got to be in the middle of the bird."

"The parishioner that we serve is vastly different … from 25 years ago, " Jakes said. "People interview you before they join your church." They’re looking for more than just spiritual guidance, and Potter’s House has to deliver: computer hookups under some pews, simultaneous translation for Spanish-speakers, a streaming Internet feed for those too ill to come to church, ample parking, a multitude of youth programs, a $4 million air- conditioning system. Black megachurches like his are just catching up to their white counterparts, Jakes said; the new trend is for deluxe amenities such as gymnasiums and food courts.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(37)
post a comment
Derek

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:16 pm


“The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.”
G. K. Chesterton



report abuse
 

Jon

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:18 pm


Uh… food courts? Did he actually say, food courts? Ugh. It’s getting to be like going to the mall.



report abuse
 

Chris

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:30 pm


Well, isn’t the mall our god?
I wonder how many people go to the mall on Sunday instead of church?



report abuse
 

Brigid

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:35 pm


Are we only referring to evangelical Protestant mega churches?
The reason I ask: doesn’t the Catholic Church have the longest history for establishing mega churches? Look at our cathedrals and basilicas. Also, look at smaller, inner-city immigrant parish closings with “mergers” into larger suburban parishes in the US today.
Father is quite unavailable in these “mega-parishes.” Thus, is it really so bad Father isn’t doing it “all” any more? Looks like these large Protestant mega-churches find that a pastor who isn’t doing everything survive, in fact, according to this report, they THRIVE!
Just some thoughts…



report abuse
 

CHristine

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:36 pm


“Potter’s House, like other megachurches, has a corporate organization chart” and “People interview you before they join your church.”
Spiritual consumerism come full circle.



report abuse
 

Joan

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:41 pm


That interview comment made me shudder. Nothing about the spirituality or the beliefs — all about the amenities, “what can you do for me.”
Unfortunately everyone’s focused on me, the physical being, as opposed to me, the undying soul.



report abuse
 

ajb

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:49 pm


“Uh… food courts? Did he actually say, food courts? Ugh. It’s getting to be like going to the mall.”
Actually, there are more than few “Church in the Mall”s around the country. There are three just in the Philadelphia/South Jersey region.
I guess you can take the church out of the mall, but not the . . . .



report abuse
 

Laucavio

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:52 pm


Only in America…



report abuse
 

Christine

posted August 16, 2005 at 3:59 pm


“Looks like these large Protestant mega-churches find that a pastor who isn’t doing everything survive, in fact, according to this report, they THRIVE!”
Well — when your spiritual life isn’t centered around the Eucharist, then yes, you can have “satellite” centers where folks gather around the big screen and take notes on the preacher’s sermon.
I guess that’s one measure of “success.”



report abuse
 

hieronymus

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:44 pm


Doesn’t the Catholic Church have the longest history for establishing mega churches?
The problem with modern mega-churches isn’t that they’re mega. It’s that they’re no longer churches.



report abuse
 

Cheryl

posted August 16, 2005 at 4:44 pm


And you would need a computer hook-up under your pew why, exactly?
So you can do a little more multitasking while you’re there?



report abuse
 

ceemac

posted August 16, 2005 at 5:27 pm


Maybe it’s not just protestants who “interview” churches.
Wouldn’t that be a pretty good decription of Rod Dreher’s search for a real Catholic parish.



report abuse
 

amy

posted August 16, 2005 at 5:42 pm


Whoa, whoa whoa!
I didn’t post this as an occasion to dump on megachurches, necessarily, but because it’s interesting to read this columnist’s contrast of the role of the pastor in the black megachurch with the traditional black pastor in a smaller church.
And I really would have you remember that the traditional urban immigrant parish was, really a “megachurch.” They were one-stop shops for everything the Catholic family could need (some even had bowling alleys in the basement). They may not have had food courts but they had church suppers, they provided and linked parishioners to social services, and so on. What’s different is the mall/consumer mentality, to be sure, but that’s not a mindset that only affects Protestants, no doubrt about it.



report abuse
 

mh

posted August 16, 2005 at 6:05 pm


A computer hook-up in a church might be for the person who takes notes via laptop. But a laptop would be nuisance, I would think, at the point that the congregation jumps up for a Gospel song (if that’s still in vogue).



report abuse
 

Sandra Miesel

posted August 16, 2005 at 6:41 pm


My husband’s home parish, an ethnic German one, had its own restaurant with liquor license run by the parish men’s society. It was a place where families could get an inexpensive meal and socialize without going to a bar. But a post V II bishop closed it down.
Light of the World Church in Indianapolis is a huge, mostly black institution offering all sorts of services to members, including its own school. Sound familiar?



report abuse
 

Eddie g

posted August 16, 2005 at 6:51 pm


Amy is right about Catholics had it first.. in 20s;30s;40s;early 50s; then they died out..I grew up in a Catholic megachurch that had 24/7 activities.. from ccd to boxing and 10 CYO groups and Bingo .. We got suburban ‘snotty’ and it all went away. It was a ‘class’ re-action.It all started when Catholics stated to register Republican!!!Frisco eddie



report abuse
 

BG

posted August 16, 2005 at 6:51 pm


While a charitable judgment is necessary where possible, food courts may not be the most serious concern with T.D. Jakes’ ministry. His articulation of the Trinity is distinctly modalistic. See the doctrinal statement for Potter’s House.



report abuse
 

Jonathan Carpenter

posted August 16, 2005 at 8:23 pm


Ceemac said:
“Wouldn’t that be a pretty good decription of Rod Dreher’s search for a real Catholic parish.” He is not searching for one. His parish swapping is mearly a vehicle he can use to find the most negative things about any parish and magnify them to make it appear as if they are all corrupt. If you do not believe me read the Dallas Morning News(AKA Weekly World News) and see how much positive things are said about anything Catholic. This tactic is reminiscent of the Hatchet Jobs that 60 Minutes used to do with brutal precision.



report abuse
 

ajb

posted August 16, 2005 at 9:00 pm


amy:
The difference is that the ethnic Catholic parishes often provided those services b/c no one else would.
The protestant megachurchs aren’t providing these services b/c they have to, they’re sellings points.



report abuse
 

Donna

posted August 16, 2005 at 9:10 pm


Wouldn’t that be a pretty good decription of Rod Dreher’s search for a real Catholic parish.
I read Rod’s posts pretty carefully. He’s looking for a parish that will help, not hinder, his spiritual development. He’s not searching for food courts and places with computer hookups.
We got suburban ‘snotty’ and it all went away. It was a ‘class’ re-action.It all started when Catholics stated to register Republican!!!
Catholics began going suburban in the 50’s and ’60’s, before they started voting GOP in large numbers. And it’s simplistic to say it’s all about suburban “snottiness” – some people have just a little bit of an issue with the Dems stance on abortion, for starters. At any rate, the suburban Catholic “soccer moms” I know all voted for Kerry.



report abuse
 

ceemac

posted August 16, 2005 at 11:08 pm


Upon further review my post on interviewing churches came off a bit snarky.
I know Rod is not looking for a church with a food court. But I will hunch that he does have a checklist and he does “interview” parishes when he visits.
By the way Jonathan. I do read the DMN every day. I also read their blog. I have been at a few events where he has spoken. I disagree with Rod on most things. But I do believe that he is a gentleman and a person of great integrity. And one who takes his faith committment seriously.



report abuse
 

Christine

posted August 17, 2005 at 8:11 am


“What’s different is the mall/consumer mentality, to be sure, but that’s not a mindset that only affects Protestants, no doubrt about it.”
Indeed. The old urban ethnic parishes were a support system for people beginning their lives as “strangers in a strange land”, and provided a welcome reminder of home, familiar ways as they adjusted to life in the U.S.
The problem I have with some (certainly not all) Protestant/Evangelical megachurches is that with all the glitz and glimmer they are reflecting too much of the “health, wealth and happiness” of American culture that says “I want it, I deserve it, God wants me to have it.”



report abuse
 

Christine

posted August 17, 2005 at 8:19 am


Well, the old Catholic ethnic, urban churches were a safe haven for immigrants arriving as “strangers in a strange land”, a place where the connection between what was familiar and known could be maintained while they adjusted to life in a new land and a sometimes hostile Protestant culture.
“Jakes’ first worry is maintaining his soul, he said; his second is maintaining his 501(c)(3) tax exemption.” He is aware of the dangers that can come with growth as he notes the civil rights struggles that defined much of the Black churches and those who pastored them in the 60’s and 70’s.
The gospel of “health, wealth, happiness” and “God wants me to have it” is a real danger in megachurches that strive to provide all the goodies of the secular society.



report abuse
 

c matt

posted August 17, 2005 at 8:25 am


Let me know when they open a Starbucks in the vestibule.



report abuse
 

Emily

posted August 17, 2005 at 9:02 am


What I learned from reading Building a Church of Small Groups by Bill Donohue, the head of (megachurch) Willow Creek’s small groups ministry, is that the pastoral heart of such churches lies in their small groups.
When Catholics and mainstream Protestants look at megachurches, we see the consumer-friendly features, and are often unaware of the pivotal role played in such churches by small group life.



report abuse
 

Emily

posted August 17, 2005 at 9:43 am


“and are often unaware of the pivotal role played in such churches by small group life.”
Emily, I’ll concede that the small groups in the Evangelical milieu might be a definite plus. I’m not a big fan of them myself because I’m more of a solitary type. They can work well in Catholic parishes IF — and it’s a big IF — they are kept on track with sound Catholic teaching. But some, especially ones that are more or less administered by liberal religious sisters, can be troublesome.
I’ve seen too many of them where peoples’ “journeys”, in whatever form they took and “stories” are the main course, even when they veer from reliable Catholic formation.
But then that’s true of a lot of RCIA programs.



report abuse
 

Christine

posted August 17, 2005 at 9:45 am


Good Lord, how did I sign that prior post “Emily”??? My apologies, Emily, those thoughts are strictly my own!
Note to self: Grind up unused Coke bottles, design new extra-fine lens for glasses.



report abuse
 

Maria Martin

posted August 17, 2005 at 11:14 am


I read recently a great commentator who said that in America, religion and faith are increasingly becoming “lifestyle choices” like anything else – the article noted the extreme decline in mainline Protestant church membership, the slight increase for the Catholics and the huge increase for mega-churches. Hmmm.. .food for thought certainly.



report abuse
 

hieronymus

posted August 17, 2005 at 11:21 am

hieronymus

posted August 17, 2005 at 11:22 am

Ken

posted August 17, 2005 at 11:25 am


Maria re “lifestyle choices”:
These days, when you hear the word “lifestyle”, it usually means something sexual. And kinky.



report abuse
 

Craig Martin

posted August 17, 2005 at 1:32 pm


“Have it your way!” What’s at play here is McTheology. It coincides perfectly with most aspects of American culture.



report abuse
 

Der Tommissar

posted August 17, 2005 at 3:36 pm


#1 There’s nothing wrong with food courts and whatnot as adjuncts to a Church.
In olden days your major churches were part of the town square. The church was a center of town life, generally opposite of the market or the mayor’s palace. Life wasn’t segmented into thousands of little shards (spiritual, recreational, financial, etc.) they all flowed together.
Nowadays, we don’t have that. For whatever reason, the Catholic faith has been divorced from societal culture at large. Since most of the culture today is hostile to the Faith, I’d be delighted to see more of an attempt to foster community within parishes. If I could have a beer and play darts in a place where I’d be comfortable having my kids come, rock on.
I think the trouble develops when these become the main features of the Faith. “Come to St. Martin’s, we have a bowling team!”
As a total aside, IIRC those Potter’s House people are really big on distributing Jack Chick tracts.



report abuse
 

Farmmom

posted August 17, 2005 at 10:08 pm


We are all strangers in a strange land now don’t you think? The dominant culture pushes immorality and everything ungodly under the sun. I dont think the evangelical megachurches are all so different than the catholic megachurches of the past. A refuge and a place for wholesome activity with people who hopefully have like minded values. And lots of those evangelical megachurches are filled with former catholics. I’ve read that Willow Creek itself is made up of at least 1/2 former catholics. Perhaps looking for what they miss in the catholic church?
Its true that the megachurches are competing for souls all right. Its called the marketplace of ideas. They want those souls and they’re willing to act foolish to get them.
However they seem to be following the catholic pattern a couple of generations later and perhaps will collapse in a “vast secularizing implosion” themselves as some say the catholic church did in the 60’s and 70’s.



report abuse
 

Emily

posted August 18, 2005 at 7:23 am


I have a friend who belongs to a small group for “recovering Catholics” at a Willow Creek church.
I understand that some Christians, including some Christian Catholics, do very well in parishes and churches that others might describe as cold, dry, unwelcoming and devoid of community.
I don’t understand, though, why a tone of spiritual superiority sometimes comes through, or why there seems to be an unwillingness to look amiably upon community-building aspects of church life that don’t personally appeal.



report abuse
 

Christine

posted August 18, 2005 at 8:19 am


“I don’t understand, though, why a tone of spiritual superiority sometimes comes through, or why there seems to be an unwillingness to look amiably upon community-building aspects of church life that don’t personally appeal.”
Catholics must speak about the Church’s chief treasure, the Eucharist. It is impossible for us not to.
I’ve been hassled too many times, at work and other places, by Evangelicals who haven’t the faintest idea of what Catholics really believe. I need to pray fervently for the humility and patience to witness to them lovingly to try to educate them.
I’ve yet to meet a Catholic who really knows his/her faith that ended up an Evangelical.



report abuse
 

smmtheory

posted August 18, 2005 at 11:50 am


I’ve read that Willow Creek itself is made up of at least 1/2 former catholics.

I believe they all say that, especially the non-denominational mega-churches. I was given that line as a selling point by somebody who belonged to one of the mega-churches when he found out I was Catholic. I advise administering a grain of salt with that claim.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

There is nothing I shall want
A couple of weeks ago, a memorial Mass for Michael was held here in Birmingham at the Cathedral. The bishop presided and offered a very nice, even charming homily in which he first focused on the Scripture readings of the day, and then turned to Michael, whom he remembered, among other things, as on

posted 9:24:16am Mar. 05, 2009 | read full post »

Revolutionary Road - Is it just me?
Why am I the only person I know..or even "know" in the Internet sense of "knowing"  - who didn't hate it? I didn't love it, either. There was a lot wrong with it. Weak characterization. Miscasting. Anvil-wielding mentally ill prophets.But here's the thing.Whether or not Yates' original novel in

posted 9:45:04pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Books for Lent
No, I'm not going to ask you about your Lenten reading lists...although I might.Not today, though. This post is about giving books to others. For Lent, and a long time after that. You know how it goes during Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, right?Well, here's a worthy recipient for your hard-

posted 9:22:07pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Why Via Media
How about....because I'm lame and hate thinking up titles to things? No?Okay...how about...St. Benedict? Yes, yes, I know the association with Anglicanism. That wasn't invovled in my purpose in naming the joint, but if draws some Googling Episcopalians, all the better.To tell the truth, you can bl

posted 8:54:17pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Brave Heart?
I don't know about you, but one of effects of childbirth on me was a compulsion to spill the details. All of them.The whole thing was fascinating to me, so of course I assumed everyone else should be fascinated as well in the recounting of every minute of labor, describing the intensity of discomfor

posted 10:19:45pm Mar. 03, 2009 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.