There is something about human nature that hates anything big. We love big and we hate it at the same time. I’ll give you an example. We loved Tim Tebow for many years. He was the king of college football, the Christian wunderkind who could do no wrong. Now he’s in the NFL and we love to hate him. We want to knock him down. We’re excited that he’s a pedestrian quarterback at this point in his career (5 games). It’s amazing.
Or consider the President. Not just this President but every modern American President. We build up these candidates as saviors who will kick the current bum out and fix things. We project all kinds of hope and dreams on these guys. Then, once the new guy gets behind the big desk, we immediately tear him down, blame him for all the world’s social ills and look for another guy we can build up before tearing down.
I’m not saying this as a commentary on Tebow or Obama. I’ve admired Tebow from afar and think he’s represented Christ well in the sporting arena. I like him, but I’m not an irrational fanboy either. I didn’t vote for Obama, but admire his intellect, personal character, and family life. I’m not a fan of his policies and will look for a conservative alternative next November. These opinions are beside the point, though.
Why is it that we hate big? There could be all sorts of reasons, perhaps, but I suspect, at the root of it, is pride. Pride manifests itself into jealousy. We know we’ll never reach the stature of someone famous like a college football star or a President, so we enjoy bring them down to our level. It makes us feel good.
To a certain extent we are seeing this played out in some fashion in both sides of our political debates. Anti-Wall Street and anti-establishment/government. There is merit to some of the arguments, but there is also an irrational, factless anti-big sentiment that runs deep.
As Christians, we’re not immune to this, we just simply cloak it with spiritual sounding terms. I see this in our approach to famous evangelicals. Google the names of famous guys like Chuck Swindoll or Tim Keller. Inevitably you’ll find blogs that rip them to shreds, usually over hair-splitting points of doctrine. I hear this in conversations sometimes among Christians, who seem to enjoy telling why they think a pastor is “all in it for the money” or “runs his church like a dictatorship” or some other charge they heard through the evangelical grapevine.
I also hear this about big, successful evangelical churches. I’m a small church pastor. People seem liberated to tell me their beefs against mega-churches. I also read these quite a bit on blogs and in magazine articles and in books. Some critiques against the American mega-church are fair. Some critiques against the church growth industry are fair. Some, but not all.
I’ve had the chance to meet a couple of megachurch pastors in my area. I have been surprised and humbled by their earnest and passionate desire to reach people with the gospel of Christ. Frankly, their committment to evangelism and piety has put mine to shame. Now, I may not always agree with every one of their methodologies. That’s fine. But for us to simply point at them and consider them off-base or unbiblical because they are big is misguided, even slanderous in my view. To assume every big church preaches a watered-down gospel is unfair. Bigger isn’t always better, but it isn’t always worse. And small doesn’t automatically equal pure.
It could be that God blesses a movement, a pastor, a church because He wants to. And Christians, instead of pointing fingers, should rejoice that God is at work. In my county, there are 600,000 unchurched people. So when I see other Bible-preaching churches filled and growing, I rejoice. That’s more people in Heaven someday. This is something in which I should rejoice. Who cares if I reached them or the church down the street reached them. The point is that they have been reached with the message of God’s saving grace.
I think Christians should be careful to fall into the “anti-big” trap. Let’s not give into the sinful human impulses to hate on something or someone simply because it is big. And let’s not think we are better because we may be small.
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:8-9 ESV)