Religion and spirituality should never, ever be likened to fast food. Fast food may be quick to get your hands on, might be tasty and might be convenient, but – ultimately – you can’t “Super Size” your spiritual life. Furthermore, the megachurches that have grown in popularity in recent years have damaged community bonding by allowing a level of anonymity that denies people the opportunity and ability to truly engage with their communities, kills the smaller community churches and prevents grass-roots community services often provided by these smaller churches from taking root.
C. Christopher Smith of the Englewood Christian Church in Indiana states: “People have stopped talking to one another. Conversation has become a lost art in our culture. And the church suffers from that lack of conversation”(1)
McDonaldization focuses on quantity over quality, technology, efficiency, and predictability.(2) These principles, highly effective in the fast food industry, have affected in a mostly negative manner, service based businesses and organizations such as health care, religion and education across the planet. These principles are extremely evident in the McDonaldization in the mega-churches, such as the international conglomerate, Saddleback Church, which boasts ten US and four global locations.
This model of “industrialized” religion has led to the perspective that you can get around the less-efficient aspects of faith.(3) Mega-churches, like Saddleback, are alarmingly close to making Christianity and faith itself a public offering to be harvested, cleverly packaged, advertised, cleverly marketed and sold off, in most cases, to the highest bidder. All flash and no substance, as it were. Rather than propagating a deep and encompassing spiritual environment that will touch and positively affect ever life it touches, McDonaldization of churches like Saddleback constricts one’s personal spiritual growth to only the Sunday morning meeting, possibly a Saturday “test flight” of the speaking pastor’s sermon of the week, and possibly a Wednesday evening prayer group, youth group or Bible study. This keeps faith and spirituality alarmingly predictable. The “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” has now become, thanks to churches like Saddleback, compromised to the extent that people are losing sight of the entire purpose of seeking God – that lifelong apprenticeship based on love, friendship and fellowship. (4) How is one to fellowship, if one doesn’t even know a single person in the “intimate group” of 3,000 people gathered in ten locations around California, when one cannot attach a name to a face in the sea of humanity?
Money has become the end-all, be-all for the mega church. Large congregations equal cash in gifts and tithes and lots of it. What all churches wishing to become a large congregation miss entirely is that a short-term influx of congregation members results in the very real and very distinct lack of growth, both spiritually and in a person’s relationship with God, and, in the end, church health. That massively populated mega church? Sure, it might be able to pack ‘em in on Sunday morning, but that church is weak, compromised and completely bereft of the purposes of Christ’s instructions.
There are several models for the mega church, all of which involve large numbers of people bringing along their money to essentially buy their way into “The Cool Kids” table. The New Testament concepts of the church are now lost in the multiple locations, the entertainment, the consumerism, the entertainment and the psychology, rather than soundly and irretrievably rooted in Christ’s teachings.
McDonaldizing America’s churches into McChurches, making them into so many franchise shops, takes the churches away from the very people they are supposed to be supporting right in their own communities. In order for churches to truly engage and reconnect people back to Christ’s vision of the church, first church leadership needs to snatch it back from the modern corporate visioneers.