Satellite and Megachurches
by Billy Beasley
I don’t write this monthly column thinking that I have all the answers. We already have enough possibly well-intended Christians in this world who think the gospel is dependent upon them expressing their views. However, I do like to ask questions and I am not afraid of a respectful conversation.
I believe what often holds back the art of conversation is the need to be right. I don’t have that. So, before you read on and if there are parts that step on your toes because of your church or my church for that matter, please try to remember that we are just having a discussion.
I also have sought opinions from friends that I know and respect. Two of them are ordained ministers.
Megachurch – Average weekly attendance of 2,000 or more.
Satellite Church – A church that holds services at multiple geographical locations. They typically will have a Pastor on site, and they may or may not have their own worship team in place, but the message is typically seen on a video screen from the main location. (Full disclosure: I am not a fan of viewing a message on a screen. I find nothing wrong with it. It is just not my preference.)
Leadership – The pastor and staff obviously are going to have far different roles than in a traditional church.
The church my wife and I have attended for almost six years is on the cusp of becoming a Mega Church. Lifepoint just planted a second Satellite Church with plans for more. The goal of Lifepoint from day one has been to point people to Jesus. The leadership obviously believes that the satellite route is another way to accomplish that goal. I don’t dispute that belief for a moment.
Developing Satellite Churches is obviously a formula to grow the church and there is certainly nothing wrong with the desire for growth but I believe it is a slippery slope and our leaders need a lot of our prayers for wisdom on how to accomplish this without leaving the core of what was started behind.
My wife has told me on more than one occasion that there are no Horace Hiltons anymore. Horace Hilton was a renowned pastor and my friend. But most of all he was a shepherd, who was my inspiration for the good pastor in my second novel, The Preacher’s Letter.
Horace once shared with me that on each church pew there was in all likelihood a person sitting there with a broken heart. The growth story of what was a tiny, traditional, Presbyterian Church before his arrival is a story all on its own. But he never forgot the broken-hearted as the church flourished. And I am not suggesting for a moment that your pastor or mine does not care about the brokenhearted.
Under Horace’s leadership, there were certainly salvations that occurred. But each Sunday the ministers and the elders stood upfront at the conclusion of the service for people who needed prayer.
I will assume that hopefully every church has a time and a place set aside for those that are in need of prayer. Our church has a room designated for it and most Sundays it is mentioned. I love my church, but most Sundays are not good enough.
Having been that person who many times has sat in church, broken, hopeless, and depressed, that is where my heart is at. I don’t have any so-called ministry. I don’t even have a desire for a platform.
My observation is that we have too many people in churches as it is who desire to be on the platform to elevate themselves but that is a column for another day.
I share this so that you can get a glimpse of what shapes my ideas. Yours may be quite different and that is good. It would be a boring, ineffective church if we all had the same viewpoint—the same gifts. Think about what Paul wrote concerning the body of Christ in Romans 12:4
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function.
As my wife, Julie and I were having a conversation about megachurches, she said something I thought was quite profound.
“In the drive to become a success, it becomes this mega industry—a colossal machine and it loses its personal touch along the way.”
One friend shared the following scenario.
A person is sitting in church broken-hearted and hearing about expansion and planting churches all over the region and the leaders and members are so excited. Maybe that person thinks,
That is all good but what about me? I am shattered today. I need help now.
Try not to look at this subject through the lens of a leader or a member of a church who is happy and all on board with the vision of mega and satellite churches to fuel growth. Rather, try to view it through the lens of that one broken-hearted person sitting in the audience.
Maybe it is the only time they have ventured into a church building in years. This is our chance to encourage someone who maybe was Born Again long ago, and they have drifted. Life has beaten them down. I have been there. I went from being rescued from a life of drugs, corruption, and more things than I care to recall to being dramatically Born Again, then to a place of being so angry with God that I cursed Him in anger for decades.
I mentioned earlier that I asked for opinions from friends concerning mega, and satellite churches. Here are some of their consolidated thoughts.
Pastors might become more of a manager than a pastor.
All can be used by God. Ask what my role is in either or both. (Mega or Satellite Church)
In most cases, a mega-church offers a big-tent revival experience without the fire that ignites spiritual change. People are usually entertained by flashy light shows, attractive graphics, professional staging and galvanic music, but once one gets beyond the accoutrements of Sunday worship, what remains of substance?
Even though many offer small groups, those small groups often cloister into self-selected, self-contained, like-minded mini-groups and offer very little space for new and different members of the same collective body of believers.
I want to confess that I am guilty of the above statement regarding small groups. I think small groups are great but sometimes it seems it becomes a catch all answer for too many questions from a large church staff perspective.
From a minister friend—Mixed feelings. Possibly provide more services and meet more needs, however the preacher is not able to perform the traditional role of a pastor who knows the member personally.
Maybe mega and satellite churches are a great way to reach the lost and fuel growth.
As long as we are diligent to keep our focus on the one and not remain comfortably with the ninety-nine.
About the Author
Billy Beasley resides in Carolina Beach, NC with his wife Julie and their Australian Cattle Dog, Teke. They are active members of Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC.
The Preacher’s Letter is his second traditionally published work of fiction.
Billy’s shares two simple beliefs with his favorite character in his first novel, The River Hideaway—Faith in God and a conviction that ‘Hearts have no color’.
His third novel, The Girl in the River, releases summer, 2020.