The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Megachurch leadership fails to promote spiritual independence

Alas, we live in an age where the non-denominational mega church rules religious society, especially in the south. Why? People are drawn to the community, Bible study and worship with 5,000+ other individuals seeking Christ. Where does it all start? A charismatic leader with a vision.

One person. One vision. One church. Sure, to start a church other leaders have to be involved, but think about places like The Potter’s House and Watermark, or Lakewood Church led by Joel Osteen. These men created religious empires, and it all started with them.

Just this week, Justin Tribble from Minneapolis executed an elaborate hoax that claimed Osteen was denouncing his Christian faith and leaving the church. There were fake reports of outraged congregants whose faith was shaken because their leader, arguably a Christ-like figure, was stripping them of their religion.

This, my friends, scared me. When I first read the report, I was shocked and angered that such a prominent leader would leave the church in such a way. How can the shepherd suddenly abandon his sheep? Who is going to lead these congregants? How will they continue their religious practice?

Then it hit me – Joel Osteen isn’t Christ, even if his congregation thinks he’s pretty darn close. And thank goodness this didn’t actually happen.

The idea that a church is so dependent on such a charismatic leader has always been one of my largest critiques of the non-denominational mega church. In the United Methodist tradition, we move pastors around from place to place to keep things fresh, alive and the focus on God, not an individual.

Perhaps these mega churches are losing the capability to sustain themselves after their leaders are gone. That is, unless they name a successor.

However, then this system of leadership turns into sort of a monarchy. Values are passed down through certain elite groups of people. Theologies are rarely questioned. The institution of male-dominated power reigns over a spirit of questioning and individual discernment.

Of course, not every mega church is this way, but I suspect many of these empires are strongly dependent on their leaders. These leaders are human, they make mistakes.

Sometimes they leave, preach theology with detrimental social implications (men’s Biblical dominance over women which has often justified sexual assault), and yes, they even die.

So what is to come of the mega church culture when these pastors start to die off? Who will take their place? Are they training younger individuals to take charge of the church and the flock of lost souls to whom they preach?

For the sake of these individuals’ spiritual lives, I sure hope so. From a theological standpoint, I’m a little more skeptical.

I’m skeptical of the idea that church is led by a human man. I’m skeptical that the church is led by a human at all. Those of us who identify with the Christian faith know that god is the leader of the church, but some of these mega church attendees may disagree with that statement.

This is a call, then, for those church leaders to ensure that they remain humble and submit to the Spirit, something they preach at the pulpit every Sunday. This may mean taking a step back in their leaderships roles, or even allowing others to penetrate the elite group that is the mega church leadership.

Most importantly, they are called to ensure that if they were to leave, that they have properly prepared their congregation to carry on their spiritual life with guidance from the Spirit, not their personal leadership.

Graves is a junior majoring in communication studies and religious studies.  

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