Megachurch. Two young ladies. Both had left the Catholic Church. Both were now attending “megachurches.” We had a good chat together. I wanted to understand their reasons for why they left the Catholic Church for a megachurch.
I was at the bank and somehow I got into a spiritual conversation with two Hispanic executives that worked there.
Why the Megachurch?
When I asked why they exchanged the Catholic Church for the megachurch, they gave me a number of reasons:
“My new church has an iPhone app. I can go on my iPhone and get Bible studies, sermons (video and audio). When I travel I can still watch the sermon, either live or later. I feel apart of the community.”
“The preaching is dynamic and speaks to my life. I find practical encouragement.”
“I felt judged at the Catholic Church.”
“People were not friendly or welcoming at the Catholic Church. The first time I went to my new church, I was welcomed by so many people.”
“My new church has classes and courses that are interesting and helpful.”
“The music is better.”
“In the Catholic Church, they use a lot of words that I did not understand.”
“People pray for each other and know each other (in the megachurch).”
Although these two ladies didn’t articulate it explicitly to me, I could tell that they were very proud of their new churches. I could also discern in them a surprise that I am so “spiritual” and yet I am very excited about being Catholic. They assumed the “with it” people were leaving Catholicism for the bigger and better and deal.
I asked them what they miss about being Catholic. They replied with two answers:
“There are not any crosses in my new church. I know it makes some people feel uncomfortable, but I wish we had crosses.”
“What will I do when I die?” They were both unclear about whether they could get anything like Last Rites at the megachurch.
What About the Eucharist?
I asked both about the Eucharist: “Don’t you miss the Eucharist?”
This question didn’t phase them one bit. “Oh we still have communion. They pass out little crackers and cups of juice. I like this better because I thought drinking from one big cup is icky. Spreads germs.”
“But in the Catholic Church,” I replied, “we believe that the Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Jesus?”
I may as well have said, “Don’t you know that there are Martians in my back pocket.” She was unaware that the Catholic Church taught this. No idea.
This, my brothers and sisters, is the crux of the problem. These girls were raised as Catholics, but did not know about the Eucharist. They did not know that the Eucharist is God. They did not understand the Holy Eucharist is the center of the Catholic tradition.
So when they compare our ho-hum Catholic music and pedestrian sermons to snazzy well produced musical productions and highly polished bulleted sermons from handsome professional speakers…where are they going to go?
If they had believed that the Holy Eucharist is truly the Lord Jesus Christ, then they would have stayed. This is the task of the New Evangelization if there is going to be one. Can we communicate the mystery of Eucharist. If we fail in that, everyone is leaving the building.
PS: I don’t mean to suggest that having the Holy Eucharist is an excuse for bad music, bad vestments, bad architecture, and bad sermons. The Eucharist is like a precious diamond. It deserves a platinum setting…not a plastic setting. We can’t say, “Well, we have the Eucharist – so you’re forced to stay and have a miserable experience every Sunday.” We can’t keep the sacraments hostage to mediocracy.
While I agree with Dr Marshall in his final conclusion (because what other church can you name that also doubles as an independent souvereign state?) I don't think he did a good enough job in showing how dangerous the megachurch concept is in light of how ignorant some fallen away Catholics are in their faith.
You think some Catholics don't know their own faith? Consider these shocking truths about megachurch pastors:
1. Most or at least a good number of these pastors either never graduated from seminary or never went to seminary to begin with. How do you expect to learn a faith when the person (yes, in some cases, the megachurch pastor is a woman but more on that later) expected to teach you the faith knows little or nothing themselves?
2. A good chuck of them have turned out to be false prophets...in the predicting future sense. One claimed thousands of dead people came back from the grave by hearing the TV broadcast he was on.
3. Almost none of those "prosperity gospel" type pastors are willing to disclose how much money they make a year, nor are they willing to disclose their financial holdings.
4. In one particular case, a famous megachurch pastor could not answer a basic question concerning how to get to God through Jesus.
And the most damaging of all:
5. Every last one of these pastors makes Christianity about man rather than about God.
How are we supposed to convince atheists that there is more to man if Christianity is reduced to being about man?
Why are atheists given an inch in this regard when atheists are idiots?