Carl Trueman has a very good essay about the ways in which megachurch and multi-site pastors, along with large-scale parachurch organizations are undermining small congregations and denominations. Here is an excerpt:
I noticed recently one individual marketing himself as someone who had planted numerous churches. This was clearly being presented as an unconditionally good thing. As the chap was a similar age to myself (middle aged but not enough years on the clock to have done too many things of any great importance), I was left wondering what exactly had happened to these churches, that he had apparently had to plant so many of them in such a comparatively short time. Did they fold within weeks? Or was his church planting ministry a form of ecclesiastical hit-and-run, whereby he had the fun of getting the work started and then swiftly headed out of Dodge before the bullets started flying? Either way, the claim to have successfully planted many churches, like the claim to have successfully dated many beautiful women, seems to me far too ambiguous on its own to enjoy automatic unequivocal admiration. It may be praiseworthy but then again….
Alongside this shift to the big box church is the emergence of big tent alliance movements whose stated objective is to transcend the fragmentation of denominations by providing a common front along mere gospel lines. Such parachurch groups have existed for many years and they often work well as minor adjuncts to the work of the church proper. The events of last year, however, have demonstrated that big tents with big ambitions bring with them big problems: there is an awful lot upon which one has to agree to differ in order to hold together an alliance movement which can fill a stadium to capacity; and history seems to indicate that reformations have not usually been built, and orthodoxy has rarely been preserved, by agreeing to differ on almost everything beyond the merest elements of the gospel, and that outside of a proper ecclesiastical context.
One possible objection to Trueman’s article is that he himself is writing for a parachurch organization. He appears to avoid this charge by distinguishing between parachurch alliances with big as opposed to small ambitions. I do think that the Trueman’s Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is different in scope and feel from, say, the Gospel Coalition — though quantifying or defining the difference may be in the eye of the beholder. At the same time, I wonder if Trueman would acknowledge that ACE may have unwittingly inspired the latter phenomena of the Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. The Alliance was first a 1996 merger between the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology (Jim Boice) and Christians United For Reformation (Mike Horton). Eventually the Lutheran presence in CURE became too hot for ACE to handle, thus prefiguring the alliances between Baptists and Presbyterians at ACE and other agencies.
I am not trying to pick a fight with Trueman. I’d surely lose. But the historical background may be of interest to him and other allies.