Guest Post: Open Letter to Julie Roys

By Paul Lundquist
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Yesterday, Paul Lundquist, a former linguist with Wycliffe Bible Translators who now works at a chemical factory in the Chicago suburbs, wrote a stunning open letter to me. His observations about the state of the evangelical church are profound. And whether you agree or disagree, I believe Paul’s thoughts are worth considering–not just for me, but for all of us. So, with his permission, I am publishing his open letter here. Paul, I thank God for you. I said it during my talk at RESTORE, but it bears repeating. God is raising up an army of Davids to take on the Goliath of  the evangelical celebrity machine/industrial complex. You, Paul, are one of those Davids.

OPEN LETTER:

I thank God for you.

Your work exposing evangelical corruption is a godsend. May God prosper your ministry. I want all Christians to read your blog and follow your updates and listen with rapt attention to the talk you gave at Restore Chicago.

I know you have paid a heavy price investigating sin in churches like Harvest Bible Chapel and Willow Creek and in institutions like Moody Bible institute, Liberty University, and the Evangelical Counsel for Financial Accountability. And I know that this work came to you unbidden, that it is endless till Christ comes, and that you will need a special measure of grace to endure in tasks that, by the mercy of God, will lead to reform.

So thank you, I thank God for you, and I pray for you.

You have better things to do with your time than read the musings of a pastor-turned-manual-laborer on the evils besetting local expressions of Evangelicalism. But even if this essay never reaches your eyes and is only skimmed by a few friends of mine, it still seemed right to address it to you.

After missionary work in Colombia with Wycliffe I pastored two Chicago-area dying churches that ultimately failed. Many pastors here can tell you that, broadly speaking, when people left our churches in the 1990s they went to Willow Creek, and when they left in the 2000s they went to Harvest Bible Chapel (or to one of those churches’ satellites.) In smaller churches these people taught Sunday School or played the piano or served as deacons, but at Willow Creek and Harvest they typically sat in the audience and watched the show. While that sounds harsh, I’m afraid I know whereof I speak and can cite examples.

In smaller churches these people taught Sunday School or played the piano or served as deacons, but at Willow Creek and Harvest they typically sat in the audience and watched the show.

Willow Creek and Harvest imploded over the last year or so as the appalling behavior of their celebrity pastors Bill Hybels and James MacDonald became known. But these megachurches had been undermining other churches too for decades. As recently as two years ago a former elder at the small church I attended openly criticized the pastor and left for Willow Creek, and an influential deacon advised the pastor to listen to a message by James MacDonald to know what a good sermon sounded like. That deacon left too. The pastor is a friend of mine, and he is godly, humble, soft-spoken, wise, and theologically astute and orthodox. But as numbers dwindled and offerings declined the church let him go, and now he struggles to find a career. I offered to get him in at the chemical factory where I work, but he said he will need to make more money than that to support his wife and three young children, and I’m sure he’s right.

Church death and ministerial failure (I don’t mean moral failure but just the mundane failure to make a living) are complex phenomena with multiple causes that are all subject to the will of a sovereign God. That said, it can still be fairly observed that anyone who tried to pastor a church in the Chicago area in the past 30 years felt the influence of Willow Creek and Harvest like the manager of a Mom-and-Pop store feels the influence of Walmart and Amazon. Two near-orbiting energy-draining black holes.

(A)nyone who tried to pastor a church in the Chicago area in the past 30 years felt the influence of Willow Creek and Harvest like the manager of a Mom-and-Pop store feels the influence of Walmart and Amazon. Two near-orbiting energy-draining black holes.

I don’t mind the collapse of some churches and the growth of others as long as the gospel is faithfully preached and the spirit of Christ is earnestly manifested in the lives of its proclaimers. But such was not the case at Willow Creek and Harvest. I heard enough of Hybel’s teaching to perceive that the center of it was not Christ crucified but “Leadership” (or, more cynically, “Power and Influence”). With MacDonald it was simple greed and self-promotion.

But even where the preaching of these two men sometimes got it right, their personal lives were hopelessly corrupt. Both men lied, constantly, for years. Hybels seduced or tried to seduce multiple women – even to the point of deliberately alienating them from their husbands, and MacDonald’s hostile aggression makes the word “bullying” seem too mild a term for it. While allegations that MacDonald tried to hire an assassin on two separate occasions have yet to be confirmed by police, the character of MacDonald as revealed by intimate acquaintances renders these charges disturbingly credible. When confronted and exposed, both men denied everything, sought to discredit and destroy their accusers, and to this day have refused to repent, submit to discipline, or even acknowledge wrongdoing in any substantial way.

So let us think the unthinkable. The two largest and most influential churches in the Chicago area were led, for decades, by unregenerate men – damned souls, enemies of the cross of Christ who masqueraded as Christian brothers and in so doing sucked dry legitimate ministries and gave despisers of the faith a reason to scoff.

So let us think the unthinkable. The two largest and most influential churches in the Chicago area were led, for decades, by unregenerate men – damned souls, enemies of the cross of Christ who masqueraded as Christian brothers and in so doing sucked dry legitimate ministries and gave despisers of the faith a reason to scoff.

It may be objected that I dare not judge the hearts of men, and that I cannot set myself up as the arbiter of their eternal destinies. Fair enough. Hybels and MacDonald do not answer to me. To their own Master they stand or fall. Someday they and all other fallen preachers like Ted Haggard and Mark Driscoll and Perry Noble and Tullian Tchividjian – along with the rest of us – will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and render an account of deeds done in the body, whether good or bad. The prospect of standing before Jesus fills me with hope because of his mercy but also with dread because of my sin. Outraged righteously indignant accusers like you and me must ever look first to ourselves.

But Scriptural warnings not to judge lest we be judged (Matthew 7:1), to consider ourselves lest we also be tempted (Galatians 6:1), and to take heed lest we fall (1 Corinthians 10:12) must be weighed against companion Scriptures that say we will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16), that we are to test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1), and that we must hand wicked professing Christians over to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20) and refuse to sit at the same table with them (1 Corinthians 5:11). Among the reasons why “reconciliation” with Hybels or MacDonald is wrongheaded is that until these men acknowledge that they are not Christians (as Joshua Harris did), or repent, then fellowship with them is forbidden in the strongest terms. A couple months ago James MacDonald was welcomed into fellowship and allowed to teach at a retreat of New Life Covenant Church. By welcoming MacDonald, New Life Covenant revealed itself to be a fake church, and true Christians must flee it.

New Life Covenant says that it has 17,000 attendees.

In any institution or assembly there are always a few people whose behavior cries out for judgment, and recalcitrant transgressors must be fired, excommunicated, exiled, impeached, imprisoned or what-have-you. No community has ever been free of lethal contaminants. Even Jesus had Judas among his 12 disciples. But it seems that there is a certain point, a critical mass of corruption, beyond which you can no longer pick the few bad apples out of the barrel but have to start over with a new barrel. In 1900 engineers reversed the course of a Chicago River that had made a sewer of Lake Michigan and filled the city with stench and disease – but in 1986 no one could decontaminate Chernobyl. That city had to be abandoned in haste. I wonder: Is the state of evangelicalism today, in the form practiced by its biggest churches, more like Chicago of the 19th century or Chernobyl of the 20th?

But it seems that there is a certain point, a critical mass of corruption, beyond which you can no longer pick the few bad apples out of the barrel but have to start over with a new barrel.

I myself am as much a product of Chicago-area evangelicalism as anybody. My parents met and married at Moody Church, and I studied Bible at Wheaton College and ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Though I’m no expert in anything and have never gravitated toward the center of any circle of influence, perhaps I’ve been around long enough to gain some sense of the spiritual landscape in the sector of Christendom with which I have been most closely associated. There is no escaping the conclusion that it’s just bad around here, really really bad, catastrophically bad, and the need for reform is critical. Though Hybels and MacDonald are gone, for example, their infection remains and their stench lingers. Anyone with biblical discernment who reads the Pastoral Search document that Willow Creek put out to find Hybels’ replacement can only shudder and say, “Oh for goodness’ sake, Willow Creekans, didn’t you learn anything?” And though MacDonald has rightly been fired and declared unfit for ministry, we still have not been entirely relieved – as you well know – of greedy belligerents who flourished in his shadow. Reform efforts remain compromised, and we’re still slouching toward Chernobyl.

There is no escaping the conclusion that it’s just bad around here, really really bad, catastrophically bad, and the need for reform is critical. Though Hybels and MacDonald are gone, for example, their infection remains and their stench lingers.

I conclude my cup-half-empty lament with four items of input. For what they’re worth.

1) Keep slamming corruption.

The work seems endless and hopeless, the bailing of a vast sea with one little bucket. But it must be done. For the love of God and for the sake of faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, it must be done. Every variety of ministry has its soul-wearying elements, its temptations to forebear – but it seems that the ministry of prophetic whistle-blowing is especially prone to them. You succeed in cutting out a tumor only to find that it has metastasized. You uncover so much wickedness that you teeter on the edge of cynicism and blanket distrust. You come to doubt yourself and your own worthiness to critique (which is a good thing, but still unsettling to experience and a potential silencer of righteous rebuke.) Your mind becomes so occupied with the muck of corruption that you find yourself gasping for spiritual air – as C. S. Lewis did when he wrote The Screwtape Letters and observed, “It almost smothered me before I was done.” But we’re all glad Lewis persevered through that dark cloud and finished the work. As God so calls you, do likewise. Do not grow weary in well doing.

2) Pray for cleansing and revival and reformation, and push for it in public prayers.

Of course, this should go without saying. But I have been to enough evangelical prayer meetings and read through enough evangelical prayer lists to note with despair that they typically contain little more than references to physical ailments (“So-and-so is getting a hip replacement on Thursday”). So the prayers for renewal must be made deliberately. Urge them. By God’s grace I’ll do so myself tomorrow when my Sunday School teacher asks for prayer requests.

3) Do your part to dump the megachurch multisite model.

I do not believe that evangelicalism per se is irredeemable. I am, and will remain, an evangelical Christian because I believe that the traditional evangelical understanding of reality is true, and evangelicalism’s interpretation of Scripture is best among the varying traditions of Christendom. I respect but dissent from the decisions of friends who got fed up with evangelicalism as they experienced it and fled to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.

To me the crisis of Western evangelicalism lies not in its traditional theology but in its de facto ecclesiology. A church is a gathering of God’s people in Christ, not a stadium with a star celebrity whose gifts and charisma attract a crowd. Megachurches of this model are seedbeds of spiritual corruption. Flee them. Never attend a church where the pastor lives lavishly, publishes (that is, has ghostwritten for him) bestsellers, leads cruises, gets interviewed by Oprah, has the ear of a president, or projects his image onto a screen so casual attendees in the attached coffee shop can catch the wave of his spiritual energy. How many of these celebrity shepherds have to be unmasked as frauds before evangelical sheep will realize that the system is unbiblical and corrupt? I will state the matter with unapologetic boldness: All multisite megachurches are spiritual Chernobyls. Evangelicalism is redeemable but megachurches are not. Run away. Attend a church where some humble, unassuming servant of God preaches verse-by-verse through the pages of Holy Scripture.

A church is a gathering of God’s people in Christ, not a stadium with a star celebrity whose gifts and charisma attract a crowd. Megachurches of this model are seedbeds of spiritual corruption. Flee them. 

4) Listen to D. A. Carson’s message, “Leaning Forward In The Dark”

This last one is oddly specific. Go to YouTube and listen to D. A. Carson’s message “Leaning Forward In The Dark: A Failed Reformation. Nehemiah 13.” I do not know any better guide to the perils involved in seeking renewal and reformation among the people of God.

Paul Lundquist works at Flavorchem in Downers Grove, IL, and occasionally guest preaches in churches. Years ago, he worked as a linguist with Wycliffe Bible Translators. He is married and has two children and three step-children.

Below is D.A. Carson’s message, “Leaning Forward in The Dark: A Failed Reformation. Nehemiah 13.” I agree with Paul that it is an excellent message for any of us seeking reform the church. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Cor. 10:12:

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59 thoughts on “Guest Post: Open Letter to Julie Roys”

  1. One big problem is evangelicalism’s doctrine of eternal conscience torment. Horrifying for sure, but also enabling for abuse. JMac and others could easily steamroll over anyone by declaring:

    People are going to hell, and will burn forever. What we are doing is soooo important that even if people get hurt along the way, that is acceptable because the stakes are so high for the unbeliever.

    I kid you not, I had a wannabe mega church pastor declare from the pulpit (paraphrase):

    I may hurt some of you with the things I do, and when we are in heaven, we’ll square things up. But I would rather do your feeling get hurt and not have people burning in Hell forever, then to make you feel good.

    Sheesh. What a doctrine for pride and abuse. This pastor fired many staff members who dared disagree because “the mission” was just too important, and time dddwas short. Many of these families left in humiliation, never to return to ministry. But again, at least this shattered famIly will be in heaven. No time to heal and restored, we’ve got to get back saving the world, and I’m the guy to do it!

  2. I recently heard on the news that the Methodist Church will be voting for a split in order to satisfy those who feel convicted about the gay population….gay pastors as well not only gay marriage. I certainly am not one to tell another in that lifestyle to stay away from attending church services, and I personally know a few who are lovely people. However, I am against the pastoral and marital allowances that would be given to the “new” church. I grew up in the Methodist Church and was an active participant there until I was 22 years old. Then, I married and moved away. We started attending a non-denominational bible believing church….a small country church which provided ongoing spiritual growth. But, I am seeing what is happening in this country relative to people leaving the church and their faith as well. Very sad to see but surely is mentioned in the bible about the coming of end times. I just would say “put on our seatbelts” and continue to trust God as He is the One in control of all things.

  3. We were warned these times would come. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:3-5

    The man-made social, political, and financial system known as Evangelicalism must be abandoned. It cannot be salvaged nor made into true biblical evangelism. In order for real churches and pastors to exist the fake ones created for and by Evangelicals have to die. Sometimes when there is disease or infection doctors the whole limb must be amputated to save the body.

  4. Julie, this is a profound letter. I never considered the effects of megachurches on the small ones. I can see that while we have clapped famous pastors to the top, we have given a shove with the heel to the doors of small churches. We have often excused “foibles” since many came to Jesus. However, we have conveniently ignored people who have abandoned their faith because of the hurt these pastors caused.
    Please keep going, Julie! Thanks for being a voice of reason in a very unreasonable (Christian)world.

  5. This is a good rebuke for any church to reflect on but I would be more agreeable to a less extreme version of it. One that says mega/multi site churches have a greater potential for spiritual corruption and should have even more accountability than the average church to avoid that. In my view, churches whose leadership operates secretly or have loyalties other than to Jesus Christ have the greatest potential for corruption, whether the church is large or small. There are some Christian ministries larger churches are able to do that many smaller churches can’t. I think it’s good to have a variety of large and small churches in a city. Another issue is that Jesus never intended his church to be so fragmented and to see themselves as other than other churches. If all Christians were fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit churches in a community would be less self focused like a corporation and would work together with other churches to carry out the Great Commission in their community. The church would be one as Jesus and our Father are one.

    1. I attended Willow Creek for several years. I also benefited from faith based Conferences where Willow was directly involved in the programming.

      While the article is well written I think the author has a myopic view which causes him to either disregard or willingly ignore the positive aspects of the Mega-Church movement. Practically speaking thousands of people have come to know Jesus in a more intimate way because of places like Willow Creek and Harvest. And Saddleback has also been a positive force for the Kingdom.

      With respect to his comments about the mega church’s impact ion small churches, let’s be honest. At least some of those small churches failed because of the Pastor’s inability to communicate the Gospel message in a way that resonated with their parishioners. So they voted with their feet because they didn’t see the relevance or benefits from continuing to support the church.

      We live in a world that offers choices. During the summer I attend a church in Wisconsin. Typically, the Pastor picks a Book of the Bible and goes through a Chapter each week. Style wise these messages are light years different from a message by Bill or James. But one thing they all have had in common was a focus on the relevancy of the Scripture to the lives of the parishioners.

      So instead of condemning all
      Mega – churches as “bad” why not encourage people to make their choices based on the impact that church is having on their ability to grow in their intimacy with Jesus.

  6. Julie
    The letter from Paul Lundquist shows a heart that cares about the decline of spiritual values and discernment within the church of North America. For my part, I have to wonder if an aspect isn’t missing in his analysis?

    The concept of evangelicalism certainly is a key ingredient of the Gospel message. However, something has happened over the centuries that has injected a cancer into the body of Christ. In a nutshell, the liberals have lobbied to tone things down, down play preaching about a changed life, minimize preaching about the ravages of sin and disobedience, and rather emphasize the positive aspects of scripture so that folks would not have a troubled conscience.

    Not only has the gospel message suffered under these evangelical methods embracing the above but seems to now be on a fast slippery slope that can be observed by the casual dress atmosphere, the fascination with multiple screens, spot lighting, and the introduction of modified secular music now called “Praise & Worship”, all embraced just so the world will feel comfortable in church.

    When church leaders endorse worldly methodologies into gatherings originally designed to feed the saints, we now are reaping the results of carnality. I for one have a hard time believing that true revival within the North American church is even possible. Why? Because most pastors and church leaders would see it as God’s endorsement of their perverted ways. The book of Revelation has some haunting truths revealed where Jesus Christ warned that if things didn’t change within a certain body of believers that He was going to take the candlestick (moral light) and walk out the door. For the most part evangelicalism will totally avoid presenting a Jesus who would take drastic measures against any Christian or body of believers since all future sins are already forgiven.

    I’m sorry, I can’t imagine anything good happening till there is a full scale repentant attitude that must start with the ministerial association in our land

  7. Powerful! Thank you to the author. Our culture demands a loving God (improperly defined) and will not entertain a Holy God. Evangelicalism seems to have taken this cue from the culture. We sing, talk, and write about God’s love, but there is little sense that God is Holy. We desperately need to recover confidence in the Word of God, in the Power of the Holy Spirit, and the truth and experience of God’s Holiness. Holy, Holy, Holy.

  8. “Blessed be the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:3. It is very easy for all of us to lose sight of our own spiritual condition. We should all pray for those pastors whom have fallen. Remember, Billy Graham visited Jim Baker while he was in prison. Our mission should always be to lead the lost back to JESUS with love. However, as Paul so rightly observed, ultimately they (and all of us) will face our CREATOR.

    Paul, GOD has you in a place where your witness should be very effective. The lost are not just in Mega Churches.

  9. I do agree with much of what Paul says. His concerns are real and we can see them being played out. Our paths are similar in many ways. We apparently walked the same educational paths, from Wheaton to TEDS, although I was about four years ahead of him. I remember being in Christian Ed classes at .weatn and TEDS when Willow was just starting up and making its impact felt. There were great stories of this youth group called Son City drawing hundreds of kids a couple of times a week(!) to hear the Gospel. Then we heard how this youth group became a church that thousands were attending. I think he lays too much blame on the draw of this church to the failure of small Gospel preaching churches, I’m sure these same churches had pressure from various sources. As a young Christian growing up in the Chicago area, I went to a small Bible church. When I say small, I mean about 80 people on a Sunday. But through the faith of the pastor, he used the Awana program to grow a youth club that drew in a couple of hundred kids a week. Their struggle wasn’t mega-churches. It was the established Catholic Church that was the power center for any community in the city of Chicago. I mention that because when Christians saw a Protestant church take off like Willow did in the 80’s, it was seen as a great work of God. what were we to do — assume it was going to become a tool of Satan and abandon it? No we studied it and tried to find out what was good in it. Nobody assumed it was pure. As Dr. Carson says, there was sin at the beginning, etc. I don’t see that takeaway from the message reflected in Paul’s letter.
    The video does bring me to my other problem with Paul’s thoughts. He tells us to avoid multi-site churches. I know a video of a speaker at a conference is not a church with a pastor on a screen, but there isn’t much difference. .I think pastors of single site congregations are just as vulnerable to failure as multi-site pastors are. His concern with that structure elevates the method way above its Pastors and churches fail regardless of how they’re done. And church leaders and church members are constantly trying to figure out what God’s definitions of success and failure are. They seem to change from church to church.
    Thank you, Paul, for your thoughts. May we all take seriously the work God has laid out for us.

  10. The corruption (and harm done thru this) mentioned is evil. Yet it pales comparison to the evil and harm done by compromising Christians (including leaders and lay folks) who cheapen and undermine God’s Word. Particularly those who yield to the spirit of the age (eg political correctness; etc).

  11. Well said!! thank you…! SO many people were ‘duped’ – I remember visiting W. Creek when a student at MBI. One of the profs took a bunch of students on a Thursday night “seeker-service” and he was really enthusiastic about taking us! It’s almost like it’s something that people could buy tickets too! Yes, I’d say it was more like going to a ‘entertaining show’. It was such an attraction to many – and was more toned-down back then than it has been in the past ten years or so I’d say.

  12. If we are truly concerned about TRUTH, we can’t make statements like “All multisite megachurches are spiritual Chernobyls. Evangelicalism is redeemable but megachurches are not.” This reeks of pure overstatement and lack intellectual integrity.

    First, there’s the obvious problem of definition. Is 1000 or more in attendance the breaking point? 2000? (Of course the church at Pentecost had 3000 the first day). Luke reports on “large numbers” in a positive way throughout Acts. It’s a little hard to make the case that mere numbers result in hopeless corruption.

    Then there’s the problem of characteristics. On one end of the theological spectrum John MacArhur has many thousands (not to mention a radio show, many books and guest spots on talk shows). In his over-zealous conservatism and passion for holiness did the size of his church render him irredeemable?

    Then there’s Tim Keller, whose church was several thousands and 4 sites. He is well known, has written books. So Redeemer Church, which faithfully preached orthodox Christianity in the center of secular Manhattan is corrupt (presumably simply because of the status of “mega-church)?

    The examples could go on and on. None of this denies any corruption where it IS. But, it’s obvious that key statements in the open letter lack reflection and commitment to accuracy.

    1. Strictly an antidotal comment: I am a senior that has taught in kids ministry for years- a ministry in our “small” church that continues to grow. I am quite honestly thrilled God is still preparing works for me to do in advance, I absolutely love being a teacher/encourager to the children. I know in a megachurch I would have most likely been tactfully phased out by now. I thank God for smaller churches that can and do make ongoing use of the gifts provided by His Spirit to the Body.

      1. Amen, Christ Follower.

        How true; and what a sad commentary on how many megas today seem more interested in elevating “leaders” based on outward appearances (youth, a pretty face, a winsome personality, worldly success and riches, etc.) opposed to servants of Christ whose hearts are surrendered to the Lord and His ways and who know that one day, their reward (Christ Himself!) will be great in Heaven.

    2. I agree Bret. Over generalizations not based on fact are validly questioned. I know many that are active Christ followers and love their mega-church- I really don’t think the problem is numbers. I have been an Elder at both an enormous and a small church- both were equally sold out in their commitment to preaching, missions, etc.. Both small and large churches have challenges, advantages and disadvantages, and I too thought some of the non-supported comments (but not all) in the open letter were/may be overly broad.

  13. Didn’t Jesus have a megachurch?Definitely multisite, not small, used others for ministry, focused on teaching/service and not Sunday School, worship team, etc. Technology is different now, but God used writing on top of verbal communication, yes?

    And what Biblical role model is there for publishing bad news (at least without more Good News)? A Nathan, especially in Matt. 18 context, would have been helpful in producing either quicker repentance, or quicker publicity. Jesus and Paul warned of false profits, I guess…

    1. Dirk,
      You are absolutely right about Jesus, however I think He warned us continually about wolves in sheeps clothing. Bigger doesn’t always mean better as we can see all around us. You and I have firsthand experience with FCA – I’ll never forget Ruth telling our board about Jim N at CCC putting his kids through FCA for FREE, but telling his congregation they should NOT spend their money on Christian education, instead give it to HIS organization. He wouldn’t so much as allow us to put any advertisement in his church bulletin. And granted there were certainly other issues that contributed to the demise of FCA, but the attitudes of these mega church “leaders” (I agree with the authors cynicism equating leadership with power and influence) are in many of these large churches today. Not all, but many. It certainly seems we have drifted far away from the church as described in the book of Acts.

  14. Bret,

    Brace yourself, the John MacArhur scandal is about blow wide open.

    Mega Churches are a pox on the church, and need to end.

    1. And what John MacArthur scandal might you be referring to?
      It seems my previous reply on this same issue was “disappeared”. What, is this google or facebook running this forum?

  15. Susan Vonder Heide

    This is an interesting letter well worth reading but I would caution against making mega-churches a villain. Certainly big egos often gravitate toward big churches, big ministries, and big denominations but a big ego acting as a big fish in a small pond can also do significant harm. The crucial thing for any Christian is to respect and support good leaders (while not being afraid to speak the truth in love to them when necessary) without blindly following bad leaders and continually making excuses for them with the naïve belief that anybody standing behind a microphone in a church must be a great Christian or even a Christian at all.

    1. Susan,

      Sadly when you attend a “church inc.” with +1000s, it neuters the ability to hold leaders, or anyone for that matter, accountable. There is no chance to “speak truth in love.” Given the mass of evidence that Julie and others have produced, you and the other commentators here are either naïve or willfully enabling these very problems.

      1. Susan Vonder Heide

        Jerome, I am not “naïve” and I am certainly not “willfully enabling these very problems”. Yes, it is easier for a leader to ignore a letter from somebody if he gets piles of mail than it is for a leader to ignore a letter from one of the 50 people that he sees every Sunday but that is a challenge that needs to be addressed rather than a complete prohibition of large churches. I have supported the efforts of people including Julie to speak the truth in love and your notion that I have not is, at best, uninformed.

        1. Susan,
          I’m glad you have supported Julie in her efforts, as have I. Your positive view of Mega Churches is uninformed.

          1. Susan Vonder Heide

            Jerome, actually my nuanced view of mega-churches is quite informed. I think that some concerns about mega-churches are valid but I also think that making those concerns the only thing that matters detracts from rather than helps taking those concerns seriously.

  16. So much of the Lundquist letter and many of the comments address the issue of “size,” whether small or mega, as a critical component of a healthy church. I ask this question in all sincerity; how healthy can any gathering be, large or small, that has dethroned it’s great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, by enthroning an intermediary priesthood called the “clergy” to control and rule over them? We know from Scripture, Hebrews especially that the old Judaic system died at the Cross. So how do we explain a professional class of individuals so important to the scheme of things that they must be compensated and given special Titles, powers and positions? Could it be that the laity, a non-existent term Biblically, demands it? The laity wants a king just like Israel did and look at the result. My reading of Scripture points to One King, King Jesus, “ and the government will be upon His shoulders,” not man. Any assembly or gathering regardless of size that does gather unto Him is amiss in my mind. We don’t gather in a building, in our church to watch the choreographed ritualized program produced and directed by a Professional Team of talented ones. For me I need Him and nothing else really matters and I want to seek and know His manifest Presence with others who are desperate for Him alone too. “If you seek Me with all your heart you will find Me.” Question is, Will our dethroned King manifest His Presence to any Body large or small that wants another king?

  17. Susan,
    Lovely use of “nuance.” Always a great word to use when you think you have something to say but in reality you have nothing to defend your view with.

    Look at the trash pile of Mega-Churches with their Mega-Scandals and get back with me. I’ll wait.

    1. Susan Vonder Heide

      Jerome, you obviously have some issues on this matter. Perhaps you have been hurt in some mega-church, but your attacking others in either a hostile or a sarcastic way is not helping make your case to informed Christians. Many people have been helped in mega-churches. This does not mean that there are not legitimate concerns about some aspects of mega-churches and that those legitimate issues do not need to be addressed but it does mean that one needs to look at the whole situation.

      1. Susan,

        I’m sure the Mega-Church you attend has no issues. Some how you have found the one Mega-Church on Earth that doesn’t have an egomaniac running it. It sounds like the Pastor(s) and the Elders and the Deacons know everyone by name and is able to guide their personal struggles and issues in life. Positively grand, please send me an invite I would love to visit.

        Yes, when you see the filth of men piss on the Kingdom of God you get a little jaded. You say you follow Julie and support her cause, but you haven’t seen the major common denominator. The larger the organization the more impossible it is to be held accountable, and the easier it is to allow whatever “celebrity leader” to get away with their sins. They build a wall around themselves and those who are that wall protect that Pastor so that the sinning may increase. Explain to me how this benefits the Kingdom of God?

        On the other hand, when the Pastor knows the names of the people in the pew, and when the Elders and the Deacons are involved in the lives of those who attend their church, it’s much harder to hide who you are. There are many who still do hide who they are but the people to pastor ratio is much smaller and in a healthy church the accountability is there.

        When a Mega-Church implodes, as we have now seen on many occasions, how much damage does it do to the greater Kingdom? There is no answer to this, it’s unquantifiable. When people put all our stock in one celebrity pastor and it comes out that he has done _______ how do you then help those who’s whole faith was built around that man? (they shouldn’t do that) But the Mega Church model is a breading ground for exactly that, they purposefully cultivate a weak faith in order to increase their masses, and finances.

        And before you argue against this just look at the massive number of sheep still defending James McDonald IT’S INSANE. James tried to have someone killed, embezzled money, plotted to hack a computer to put disgusting images on it to discredit the man, made sexual advances on women, paid people off for their silence, and so much more! And there are still hundreds of brain washed drones defending him and his actions. This is the modern Mega-Church movement.

        I make no apology for the sarcasm.

        1. Susan Vonder Heide

          Jerome, more sarcasm just adds to the problem. You are preaching to the choir when you express concerns about megachurch excesses on Julie’s website but your extremism on the subject of megachurches is not helpful to anybody, least of all, I suspect, to anybody reading this blog who may not be familiar enough with megachurches to have formed an opinion and who may be turned off about concerns about megachurches by your hostility toward more nuanced Christian opinions on the subject.

  18. One thing that comes to mind for me is that when you consolidate authority in one lead or “executive” pastor, along with one deacon or elder for every few hundred members and attendees, you’re really closing off opportunities for service for a tremendous number of very capable people. And, quite frankly, you’re making it impossible for people to get programs from “their own personal initiative” to “church culture.”

    Let me draw a picture; I just left my church’s position of “Sunday School Director” to become a deacon, and one of the things I did as “Grand Poo Bah” of Sunday School was to (belatedly yes) get a children’s ministry safety policy in place. Just getting it done, for reference.

    Now I could have “held on to my cheese” and said “no I don’t want to be a deacon when I’ve got this”, but I realized that if I wanted child safety to be “bigger than Bubba”, I needed to hand it off. And guess what? The new man is hitting the ground running in a way I’d never have expected. He gets it! And in another way, I can say that he needs this opportunity to grow.

    Now put me in a bigger church where the Grand Poo Bah of Sunday School is a hired position….and the Executive Pastor or other “higher” roles is something that the grand poo bah can never attain. So he goes into “on the job retirement” and the program stagnates.

    I don’t know that it’s impossible for huge churches to have this dynamic, but it strikes me that Jesus trained three men super closely, twelve men closely, and another couple hundred to a significant extent–and the explosion in the church in Acts 2 was protected because Jesus had handed off His earthly role to not one or two, but nearly a dozen men. We ought to have the same dynamic going in our churches.

  19. I would say from where I live surrounded by a mega church with Alister Begg and smaller churches abound. The issues are in mega church and the smaller church we left early this year. Abuse abounds in leadership and we know this first hand with family and friends who attend or attended Parkside. When a member comes up against a pastor in love for the flock and body. Well, lookout. Isaiah 19:5 covers most of what has been brought up here. When evil is called good and good evil.
    Alister Begg didn’t show up at a meeting but sent two elders. Who do they collect a pay check? When asked by our friends over issues they had taken concern with where was Alister. I quote, This meeting would have ended 10 minutes ago. Heartbreaking but eye opening to our friends. When time passed with no reply we warned them the reply is coming but we fear it won’t be one you like. It played out just as we thought. Why? We saw this in the church we left one person in charge and (as we are all sinner’s till Christ’s return) want our own way. But at who’s cost? The church has to be fed be it large or small.

    Thank you for sharing this letter. Thank you Julie for uncovering the truth at a high cost. Sadly, suffering is not talked much in church. Christ said, Pick up your cross and follow me! It’s coming at a cost of breaking up friends and family over the”church”. Yes, we will each stand before God to give account. May God open the eyes of people.

    The issue at Parkside was giving Alice Cooper a opportunity to share and give his testimony. His life does not show good fruit. Alister Begg allowed someone who other on the stage sings ungodly music. But a pastor told Alice to keep doing what he does. Bottom line, Does it glorify God?

  20. One thing both small and mega-churches have in common is . . . HUMANS—in the pulpit and the pews (or chairs or stadium seats). And, all humans are enticed by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). When Bill Hybels and James McDonald departed from the way of Jesus, I do not know. Likewise, I do not know if there is something endemic to mega-churches that makes true Christianity almost impossible. Paul Lundquist’s letter is a sober warning.

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