Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

The Magical Mystery of the Mega-Church

Russ Lipton has a weblog that is well worth reading: Coffeehouse at the End-Of-Days. I first became familiar with Russ over two years ago when he was generously writing documentation for Radio Userland because hardly any coherent help existed. His effort was a great benefit to me as I attempted to learn the software. Oddly enough, we have both since moved on and no longer use Radio for much, following over a year of stagnation in its development.

I rediscovered Russ a month ago and learned that he is much more than your typical techno-geek. He is a Christian intimately involved in a local congregation while also teaching in a private school. His weblog is a great mix of technology, politics, spirituality and family life. This weekend I planned to send him note to let him know how much I enjoy his writing and perspective. Oddly enough, he stumbled into my world before I could step into his.

This morning Russ posted a short note on Fellowship Church and Robert Scoble's June visit to our campus. Scoble's essay on those two hours has proved to have significant staying power; I still receive consistent traffic from his post and Boing Boing referred to it just last week.

I have been a Fellowship employee for over four years and in that time have spoken to many people both inside and outside the church world about mega-churches. There has also been a great deal written about the role that technology should play in the modern church. On the second question, let me be clear again that technology is simply a tool the church can use to reach people and inform people, make children's check-in quick and secure, make the church and its staff more effecient and present the music and message in the most powerful, professional way possible. Only through God's grace is Fellowship what it is today. As Russ points out, without His hand the technology, buildings, and large crowds are irrelevant. I hope that Russ has the opportunity to read through my take on Scoble's visit, as well other comments on the mega-church question.

Russ wonders whether God is a disposable after-thought in our church, a sense he gathered from Scoble's technology-focused piece. Of course, my answer is that God is at the center of everything we do. As I've said previously, our entire focus is on reaching the lost and changing lives. At every church I attended before Fellowship, there was almost no attention given to applying the truths of the Bible to our lives in the here and now. I don't expect my words to be persuasive in and of themselves. I don't know if you can know a church or its heart without spending time within its doors. I hope Russ has the chance to travel to Dallas and visit. I would love to show him around, or anyone else who is interested. As a temporary measure, feel free to watch one of our recent messages online. We are currently in the middle of a series on parenting called Who's Kidding Who?

Another option would be to visit during our annual Creative Church Conference (C3) in January; the site will be online next week at FellowshipConnection.com. Last year, over 2,000 pastors and church leaders from around the country visited to learn more about reaching our communities for Christ. Perhaps we could arrange for a gathering of people interested in the role Internet technology plays within the local church.

If you talk to our staff or visit our conference, you'll find one thing I believe all of us agree on; the message is unchanging, the methodology is not. Our dream is that every church is an original, living, breathing, and passionate community of believers with a drive to minister to their neighbors. When I see a small, traditional church, I pray that it is filled with enthusiastic believers who are committed to the mission of the local church. I do not assume by its size that it is less than that, and I don't believe someone should make that assumption about a large church, based on its size alone.

Every church is different and has its own unique place in the body of Christ. In our case, we find ourselves in the middle of a very large, young, growing population. If our church were not growing in that environment, if it were not attracting those who have questions or have never stepped inside a church before, we would question whether we were in step with our calling.