Magazine article The Christian Century

Megachurch, Mini-Congregation. (from the Editor/publisher)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Megachurch, Mini-Congregation. (from the Editor/publisher)

Article excerpt

THIS ISSUE FEATURES a topic in which I have a personal interest--the megachurch (see John Dart's article on page 22), though I deplore the term and try never to use it. It is such a market-oriented word, so hurtful to the vast majority of ministers who work faithfully in congregations that do not approach "mega" dimensions except in spirit, courage, compassion and mission.

My special interest in John Dart's report comes also from my friendship with the late Frank Harrington, who before he died unexpectedly and much too soon was the pastor of the largest congregation in my denomination. Atlanta's Peachtree Presbyterian Church at one time listed 13,000 members. Dart quotes Jerry Van Marter, the Presbyterian communications officer, to the effect that Harrington resisted deleting a single name from the church roll. I would add that Frank Harrington was a terrific pastor, that he loved the Presbyterian Church, and that he led his congregation to impressive commitment to mission in new church development and in Habitat for Humanity projects, and was a major contributor to theological education.

Our article on megachurch leadership revived a mental conversation I had been having with Eugene Peterson, who was interviewed in our previous issue about pastoral ministry. Peterson declared that "pastoral work is best handled in a fairly small setting," and he specified that "fairly small" means "somewhere between 50 and 500 people." I bristled a bit a this, but eventually concluded that he is right. Good pastoral work happens in settings of under 500 people. …

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