I love the Church. I don’t know if anything so broken has ever been so beautiful. We get so much wrong, and always have. But, looking back through history, the most astonishing thing, I think, is how much we’ve gotten right. The people of God, the Body of Christ, pursuing him and bringing redemption to the world — it’s breathtaking. I’m honored to be part of this community that spans centuries, nations, subcultures, and opinions.

I can be arrogant at times, and I used to be very arrogant toward most of the Church. It wasn’t completely conscious, but I assumed if you didn’t fit into the small circle I did, you probably just didn’t love Jesus as much as me. I cringe even writing that, but I really treated other Christ-followers that way. Jesus broke my heart over that during college, but for a long while I had one prejudice left: I was anti-megachurch.

I think God may like irony as much as I do, because over the last three years I’ve been part of two of the biggest local churches in the U.S.: Crossroads and Southland. It’s tough to say just how much I love these two churches. They’re different, but they share the same heartbeat. Crossroads and Southland have shown me that my assumptions about megachurches had been very wrong. Here are a few of them:

Big churches water down the Gospel. This one is simply not true. Here’s the reality: in the last three years, I’ve heard more sermons calling me to die to self and allow Jesus to completely transform me than I had in my entire church-and-Christian-college-attending life. I started realizing that what I had labeled as “watering down” was actually just clarity. The messages are accessible, but not easy. I leave every week  knowing exactly how my life needs to change. I used to use “seeker-sensitive” as an insult, but when I see literally thousands of lives radically transformed, given to Jesus, and plugged into redemptive community, I have to admit there’s something going right here.

Big churches care more about performance than worship. Big screens, fancy lights, polished musicians — if it looks like a concert, it must be a concert, right? Wrong again. I think I had equated sucky production with high spirituality. Really, though, the Church is called to creativity and excellence. The audio and visual elements are works of art that are worshipful in and of themselves, and there’s something beautiful about using the cultural expressions that are your heartbeat to bring glory to God. Not only that, but I’m one of many people who find these kinds of artistic elements incredibly powerful. I once cried after just seeing the new stage set before a service at Crossroads. Words are not the only way to tell the truth.

Big churches don’t focus on discipleship. As a raging introvert, I will admit it’s quite intimidating to try to get plugged into a community of 12,000 people. But the assumption that megachurches only care about getting people in the door is absurd. To quote a line from Crossroads’ Seven Hills We Die On, “We expect every person [in our community] to be moving closer to reflecting he complete image of Christ in every area of life.” Quite the strong statement — and I can tell you, they mean it. Both Crossroads and Southland pour into their people and offer more opportunities to grow and serve than I’ve seen anywhere else.

Those are just a few of the things I was wrong about. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what I love about being part of a big church (including the spiritual significance of free coffee). In the mean time, what about you? What have your experiences with megachurches been like? Am I right in thinking most big churches are big for a reason, or did I happen to stumble on the only two good’ns?

Comments? Questions? Spirited critiques? Let's hear 'em.