Confessions Of A Megachurch Skeptic
A few years ago, we tried a new church.
From the first time we went, the Lord used the pastor and other leaders to speak directly into our situation. I knew the Lord wanted us to continue coming.
However, I struggled. I couldn’t stop mentally criticizing everything about the church. I felt very out of place. Most people dress pretty nice there. We were shopping exclusively at thrift stores at the time.
Everything seemed designed to appeal to people’s senses. There was great music, warm coffee, big screens, and colored stage lights. The facilities were way too nice. I thought we should feel guilty worshipping there while our brothers in poor countries worship on dirt floors.
I struggled to believe the friendly atmosphere was genuine. And how could the worship team get up there service after service with so much joy and enthusiasm? Were they faking?
The pastor was extremely likable. I liked him so much, I thought something had to be wrong with him. “He’s only giving people spiritual milk because he doesn’t want to upset anyone. Yes, that must be the problem.” These kinds of thoughts went on and on for the first few months.
But I knew God was speaking to me personally through the sermons. I knew God wanted me there.
I’m not sure what came over me. But finally, I caved one day during worship. I said, “Lord, would you please remove this negative and critical spirit from me?”
Immediately, my thoughts began changing. Before, I would have a thought such as, “This is just a bunch of rich people putting on a show.”
Now I would think, “How wonderful that the people who go to this church give so much of their time and resources to help others!”
Before: “This pastor is giving everyone spiritual milk.”
Now: “This pastor is an incredibly gifted communicator. He explains difficult issues in a way everyone can understand.”
In every case, my thoughts were turned completely around. I began to realize this church was spiritually thriving! Thousands are being saved and baptized. Thousands are fasting and praying together. This church ministers to prisoners. They care for widows and orphans.
Everything they do is driven by prayer. People are showing up at 6 am during weekly prayer services, every Saturday, Wednesday nights, and on special serve days.
Much of the congregation is serving the church every week. Thousands are feeling welcomed and loved by a church for the first time in their lives! People’s lives are being transformed. Marriages are being restored. People are getting free from destructive attitudes and actions. People are being healed of deadly diseases. People are being comforted in their pain.
This church is extremely generous! A lot of money is flowing out of this church and into the world to spread the gospel, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick.
After my eyes were opened, I began to wonder how I ever found anything wrong with this wonderful church!
I was amazed.
I’ll never forget God’s final reforms on me in this area. A couple of months after I prayed this life-changing prayer, I was in worship. Some of the old attitudes started to creep up. I remember saying, “Okay, Lord. This is a great church. I get that and I love it. But, why do they need all the fancy lights?”
Before I could finish my question, a fully formed answer was present in my mind. I believe this was the voice of the Holy Spirit. Here’s how the conversation went.
Me: “…But, why do they need all the fancy lights?”
The Voice: “Chris, you know there’s fancy lights around my throne in heaven…”
I remembered a passage from Revelation.
“The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.” – Revelation 4:23 (NLT) emphasis added
A huge smile came to my face. I was moved to tears. I said, “Okay, Lord. I got you on that. But what about the smoke?”
(By smoke, I was referring to the fog from the fog machine)
The Voice (in a happy, playful type of way): “Yeah, there’s smoke too…”
I remembered a passage from Isaiah.
“…I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne… Above him were seraphim… At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” – excerpts from Isaiah 6:1-4 (NIV) emphasis added
God’s Spirit is being poured out on me as I embrace the worship service. The last thing I hear in my spirit is this.
The Voice: “You know the tabernacle and the temple were copies of the real thing in heaven. You’re just practicing for what you’re going to do in eternity.”
I remembered a passage from Hebrews.
“That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven… Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven.” – excerpts from Hebrews 9:23-24 (NLT) emphasis added
This blew me away! Ever since that time, I often think of heaven during worship service.
Obviously, smoke and colored lights are not required. New covenant believers have freedom to worship how we choose. But God showed me there certainly isn’t anything wrong with colored lights and smoke. In fact, God is rather fond of them! Otherwise, He wouldn’t have them around His throne.
God used the smoke and lighting as final illustrations which allowed me to fully embrace everything about my church.
For the last few years, I have fallen more and more in love with my church every day. I love Jesus and I love my church. I love everything about my church! There’s no way for me to put into words how much I love and appreciate my church. What God has done is simply indescribable. This pastor has become my pastor and this church has become my church.
I’ve been set free from critical, accusing, and slanderous thoughts.
You can be free to love your church as well! Just ask!
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9 thoughts on “Confessions Of A Megachurch Skeptic”
Beautiful. Just beautiful. I’ve served in both small and big churches. I’ve also served in one that’s small and became a mega-church. People may really see differently from the outside sometimes, while God is orchestrating everything for his glory. I’m glad you had a breakthrough. =)
Loved reading this. Large or small it is the Spirit of God in the people worshiping that matters. One day we all will get it.
We live in a pretty rural area in Oklahoma so our churches here are mostly pretty small. We went to my brother in laws church in Dallas and it had more people that Sunday than live in our small town. I was blown away by the service but I also questioned the need for all the “fancy things”, I decided they were doing something right to fill the seats and having them there to hear the Word was really
the most important thing.
Thank you for sharing! I, too love my church–Deep Water, here in Halifax,NS. i don’t always get there but when I do, I feel loved and blessed to be a part of something so wonderful and mega great!!!
Thank you Chris! I can relate with everything that you said, as I once had similar if not some of the very same thoughts. The way you used your own personal testimony as well as the scripture that God gave to you to bring confirmation to your heart and mind is very helpful. I plan to refer people to this post in the future who may have the same hesitations as we had.
Thank you, Eric, for the encouragement! I’ve read this many times and it brings me to tears every time as I remember those moments with the Lord. He’s so kind, tender, loving and patient in how He deals with us!
Oh, Chris Chris Chris…you are a blessing!! I have a precious friend who is taking me to my church (COTH) every week, and is fighting it every step of the way, because of all the things you listed! This article has her name all over it! I would ask that you pray that ‘such as you have been given, may the Lord give also to her’, and that she be freed up from these obstacles. I’m not going to put her name here, but a nickname I call her is Cara. Please pray for Cara. I SO want her to love COTH the way I do; she has seen the change it has and is continuing to make, in me. She sees the outreach and the good we do; but she’s just certain that ‘there’s something missing’, even though she can’t tell me what ‘it’ is. Thank you for your transparency and your testimony!
Thank you, Chris, for sharing your thoughts on worship in a large modern church. Karen and I have had similar experiences. Your insight is a great reminder of how God sees us as we praise and thank Him.