How to Know When to Leave Your Mega Church
I always used to think the “worship audition” phenomenon was just an urban myth, but I am sad to report I now have confirmation of it. Still, I can’t wrap my mind around how it happens. How, for example, do you tell a prospective worship team member her joyful noise was for another time? Her rejection probably gets prefaced by, “We have prayed about who should join our team and I am sorry but we have not chosen you.” In other words, “Jesus told us you suck.”
Can you imagine Jesus telling someone who loves Him and loves to worship Him that he or she is not good enough? Are we now in the dispensation of “the MegaCool Church”? Can you recall some biblical text that has eluded me that says: “All ye talented sing unto me, those who suck be quiet. Thus sayeth the Lord.”
I have watched the first baby steps of withdrawn, church-abused friends who begin to venture into the world with courage. I remember the first time I saw them with their heads up and the first time they made eye contact during a conversation. I get a little weepy when I imagine their monumental bravery in accepting an invitation to join a real worship team. I can only imagine the crushing blow of their earlier rejection by those who were their “brothers and sisters in Christ.”
2. If and when the primary focus of your church is on the 99 sheep that aren’t lost, you should leave.
When I was in seminary I was warned that if I were not careful, 10 percent of the church would require 80 percent of my time. That was incorrect: it turned out that 99 percent of the congregation distracted me from my true vocation — shaking the bushes for the 1 percent of the congregation who were lost and living on the margins.
To identify whether your church’s primary focus in on the 99 percent or whether it is on the 1 percent, ask for a meeting with your lead pastor. Tell him you want to help the church start a ministry to help the poor. If you get directed to someone else, wait three weeks and then call with this message for the senior pastor, “I just inherited a large sum of money that I am interested in giving it to the church, but would like to get together first to discuss it?” I bet you get that meeting.
3. You should leave your church if and when you start making excuses by saying things like, “I know something seems wrong, but…”
- “I go for the kids.”
- “I go because I love how I feel during worship.”
- “I sense the pastor is too powerful and unavailable to most members of the church, but he is such a great speaker!”
- “I feel like the church’s building and an emphasis on “growing” is costing the congregation too much
- “I suspect the church’s ‘success’ has more to do with being cool than being Christian.”
4. If and when only success stories get told during services, you should leave.
When your church services only highlight success stories about the conquest of addictions or character defects, most of the people present will feel unusually sinful and disconnected from the rest of the congregation. That is because most people have ongoing, life-long struggles filled with countless setbacks. I have a friend, an amazing church leader and pastor, who asked for help from his church’s leadership when he was struggling with pornography. He was summarily fired. That broke my heart, because he confessed his sin as he should have done and he got punished for it. I’m sure other men with the same struggle at that church got the message loud and clear, and I suspect that rather than confiding decide to keep their secrets to themselves.
I could give more reasons for leaving the mega church, but I think you get the point. I have this sense that there are many people in pain who have no voice in their congregations. They are sitting on the edge of their seats on Sundays, burning inside to share about their lives, sensing that Jesus wanted more, that His all-inclusive way makes no sense to the outside world even though it is the only path to freedom. The way is narrow and unusual and it even seems stupid sometimes, but these people sense that it is still the right way. If only there was someplace they could be heard.
Is it time for you to go?