Religious Studies Faculty Publications

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2006

Publication Source

Christian Ethics Today


Mega-churches are not very popular among academics, even Christian ones. At a recent conference of theologians and ethicists, my colleague and I found ourselves on the defensive. According to the bulk of the seminar participants, the failure of mega-churches to form faithful disciples was a foregone conclusion.

This perspective was very troubling to us. Since we could vouch for the genuine and sincere faith of our academic peers, we could not simply dismiss their complaints as spiritually vacuous. At the same time, we could not deny that God's Spirit was genuinely present in our mega-church congregation. Formerly-unchurched persons are coming to faith in Christ and being baptized. Yet there was a ring of truth to their charges. As mega-churches grow like wild fire, many pastors rue the accompanying phenomena of church-hopping and passive spectatorship. Surprisingly, the providential fact that we teach at a Catholic university has helped us see this conflict through new eyes.

For Catholic believers, everything is formative because everything is capable of either facilitating or hindering God's redemptive presence. If our Catholic brothers and sisters have a point, perhaps some aspects of mega-church worship that we have typically championed under the name of evangelism ought to be evaluated in the name of discipleship. If everything is formative, we ought to be asking whether everything is contributing toward the formation of Christ-followers. We suggest that at least two things are being overlooked.

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