In my last post, I wrote about the light bulb conversation Johnny and I had on the porch that ultimately led to us leaving Giant Church Incorporated.
Johnny and I saw problems before the day of the men’s breakfast, but rarely talked about it. When we did, I redirected our conversation away from anything negative, even when he had valid concerns. It frustrated Johnny, but the leadership of the church taught over and over about the damage caused by gossip and a critical spirit. They taught it on Sunday mornings in a series of messages. Several times. Probably recently. They reiterated it in staff and team meetings, and one-on-one with leaders. Gossip was never tolerated and when it was suspected, the leaders shut it down immediately.
I was afraid to dishonor Giant Church Inc or its leaders. Any question, doubt, and healthy criticism were considered dishonoring gossip. To Giant Church, to the leaders, to God. Offenders were reprimanded and shamed, and sometimes removed from leading or serving.
I’ll repeat what I stated in my first post: Giant Church Inc is a distinct kind of organization with mega church characteristics, but all Giant Church Incs are not mega churches, and all mega churches are not Giant Church Incs. There are plenty of churches that operate like Giant Church Inc with fewer people and smaller budgets.
What Is Giant Church Inc
It is a non-profit, tax-exempt entity operated like a corporation, ruled by a CEO pastor with no outside, uninvested, or objective accountability in financial or leadership matters.
Typically it’s newly planted by an applicant (usually a married couple), who is screened and approved by the church planting association. In some cases, an established church pays a recurring fee to be part of the association or group of related churches.
The association does not oversee any part of the church, but will sell resources to Giant Church Inc to help its leaders learn the strategies necessary to launch, grow, and sustain the church. Launch manuals, recruiting techniques, coaching sessions, digital marketing plans, budget templates, and more are available to churches in the network.
The network’s ministry business partners can create a captivating logo and website for the church. Another business partner will produce a creative media campaign to help build a following. The network has several business partners who can design and build the church, or provide the necessary equipment for a portable set up. Legal, finance, and global missions partners are also available to the church network.
It could be a standalone Giant Church Inc, but often they are part of a larger connected group of churches.
Giant Church Inc has a hierarchical authority structure, often patriarchal. If there are elders, they are approved and appointed by the pastor. There is no congregational voting. The pastors and staff are to be honored and obeyed without question. They are preoccupied with authority and submission, and teach the lay leaders to lead the same way.
It is hyper focused on attracting newcomers and neglects the more complex task of biblical discipleship. It sells its church-logo-branded merchandise in the lobby and asks volunteers to wear church-branded merchandise.
Spiritual growth and maturity is measured by how much you attend, serve, give and the climb up the growth track to the next level.
The worship time is entertaining and the teaching tends toward the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. The sermons are more motivational than biblical, and never expositional.
There is a distinct separation between the insiders and the rest of the members at Giant Church Inc.
The men’s and women’s “ministries” are for profit limited liability corporations owned by the pastors and/or church leaders. The men in the church pay an application fee to participate. The fees increase and more personal information, such as journals and W-2s, are required by the company’s administrators with each new level. The men are rewarded with the LLC branded items, such as t-shirts, necklaces, and rings, when levels are completed, but these rewards can be revoked as church leaders see fit.
Another way to put it: Giant Church Inc is a consumeristic, entrepreneurial, entertaining 501c3*, vying for its share of the market, shaping consumers instead of making disciples. It’s big business and big money.
Mark Galli, the recently retired editor in chief of Christianity Today, wrote in his series for the magazine called The Elusive Presence, “For some decades now….I’ve believed that American Christianity has been less and less interested in God as such, and more and more at doing good things for God. We’ve learned how to be effective for him, to the point that we don’t really need him any longer.”
It seems Giant Church Inc has forgotten God.
I didn’t tell Johnny what I saw when I worked for the church in 2014, because I didn’t want to believe it. But I couldn’t deny it either. I tried to make the necessary changes in the business office of the church, the ones I thought I was hired to make. Again and again, the executive pastor told me he would take care of it.
I was told by church leaders I was too serious, a rule-follower, and while my personality type made me loyal and dependable, it also made me rigid. It was clear that my questions were bothersome.
Once we have spent time in a particular belief system, especially in a “church” environment that demands massive contributions, unquestioned loyalty, absorbs all spare time and which forms the entire social network for people, most don’t have enough mental energy to figure out that something is terribly wrong.Christy Thomas for Patheos
I quit asking. Nine months after I was hired as an accountant for the church, I prayerfully resigned.
I was relieved for several reasons. First, I’d no longer know what happened in the financial office and behind the scenes at Giant Church Inc.
Second, I’d have time to grieve properly for my parents. My mother was terminally ill and my father died while I was on staff. In addition, my immediate family experienced another trial and I needed to be more available to them.
The high performance culture at Giant Church Inc makes it difficult to be broken in any way. The fast pace and constant change don’t allow it. An unspoken motto at Giant Church is: Be sorrowful when absolutely necessary, but let it be short-lived and get back to the business of positivity.
I’ll never forget the words from another staff member my first day on the job at Giant Church Inc. “They told me this was a fast moving train and I have to move with it. They weren’t kidding,” he sighed, looked down and shook his head. He’d worked for Giant Church less than a month. He resigned a few months before I did.
Less than two months after I left my job at Giant Church Inc, my mom passed away. It was a gift to be back in my previous job. They allowed me the time I needed to grieve and take care of my parents’ estate.
Lastly, I hoped and prayed my feelings about the leaders of our church would change back to what they were before…..before I was on staff. Before I knew what I knew. I hoped attending church and serving with my family, without the rigorous demands of staff life, would allow that.
God did that for me. He tenderly led me through the grieving and healing process, settled me back into the position with my former employer, and allowed me to love my pastors and church leaders even better than before.
But the red flags didn’t go away. I’ll tell you what I did with them in my next post.
I’ll end with a story of Jesus we know well, but may not think about enough.
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.'” Matthew 21:12-13
God help us!
*I heard this said a while ago and it’s been stuck in my head since – I just can’t remember who said it.
The Great Escape From Giant Church Inc is next in the series.
Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay
Bold! This one has been a long time coming! Proud of you Sister!
Thank you Suzette! For your love and prayers over the years.
Gut-wrenching and well written, Marie. Your voice needs to be heard. Thank you for the courage to let it be so.
Joy, thank you. You’ve been a courage giver for sure.
Marie, You have again hit it out of the ball park! I’m so thankful the Lord has had you to write this series. I pray this helps others that are struggling, trying to find a way out, but maybe not having had the courage to break free. As you know, I hate for people to mistreat others, take advantage of others, etc… It is even worse, when it comes from people that present themselves as servants of the Lord and are in positions of leadership. Brian and I still have not found where the Lord would have us after our two strikes from Giant Church, Inc and Small Church, Inc. We have visited several churches some several times and a couple of times thought we had found the one, but then red flags. Lately, we have just become slack and have not even been looking. I long to be part of a community of believers that are like minded. Believers that we can fellowship with and encourage each other in helping and discipling others. I trust the Lord will lead us as we begin to take baby steps again. Love you, my beautiful sister!
Melissa, thank you for being a source of encouragement to me and my family. I will pray with you as you and Brian seek out a faithful and loving community to be part of. Love you!
Awesome read, you are good at articulating thoughts and emotions I need to hire you to write my journey of who I am today. You have a gift
Thank you Brandon.
I am still praying this opens the eyes and ears of those whom I love. Thank you for writing.
Me too Daniel! Thank you for your encouraging words.
Thank you, Jason. I hope my story will help others.
Marie this second blog brought me to tears. I remember so many times at work when I knew something was wrong or after certain conversations we had about church. I just finished reading a post from John and Jana Lovelace to you and it makes me even more thankful that you are writing this blog. People need to know. Not all churches are like this. Not all pastors are like this. Thank you.
Thank you Pam! Love you.
Very good article, thank you for writing it.
Thank you for reading and the kind comment.
The enemy of our souls has duped us into believing we need Big Church Inc to meet our needs. We fail to see the One who died on a cruel roman cross has provided us everything we need for life and godliness. Well put Marie, thanks for sharing!
Ron, thank you! May we see Jesus, the One who gives us everything we need.
I’m from New England and my family attended a church with many of the same characteristics. We left, but my daughter is still healing from the damage this style of American Christianity inflicted on her. Our time there was for a purpose. We all were saved by the grace of God, but it was in leaving that we discovered that church is a group of believers separate from a building and fellowship can happen in a bar or coffee shop, and worship can take place on the beach, in your car, or in the simple handling of your day to day life. Thank you for writing this.
Thank you for sharing Jessica. I’m sorry your family went through that. My children are healing as well. They won’t go to a church building, but will gather with us and others, listen to and discuss the Word, and pray. We’ve done that on the beach, around our dinner table, and on the trail. We also did home church for a year and it was a sweet time for me and my family.
Oh Marie…. Oh my goodness, yes to all of this. Thank you for this. So many truths in these words…. Love you always!!
Love you, Trish!
Bells went off in my head for me when I was told thar ALL of my tithe and offering would have to go to Megachurch. This, despite what the Bible teaches, was the first indicator that all was not well. God will lead you to a healing place where Jesus is preached. I am sad for everyone who has been hurt. He will help us all.
Jane, He has led us to such a place. Thank you.