There's no doubt that megachurches are growing in popularity and prevalence — facts that have led Christian consultant William Vanderbloemen to issue a warning to houses of worship, vocally encouraging them to more diligently prepare for their futures.
Vanderbloemen, who has assisted countless megachurches with structuring and employment needs through his Vanderbloemen Search Group, told TheBlaze that being equipped to cope with possible shake-ups and calamity is paramount.
He specially pointed to what recently happened surrounding Mark Driscoll, the former pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington.
Former Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll (Image source: YouTube)
Driscoll's recent resignation from the church he founded was followed by another shocking announcement: Mars Hill is dissolving by year's end, with its 11 congregations becoming independent houses of worship.
And Vanderbloemen said that the stunning situation carries with it a plethora of lessons to be learned.
"Mark stepped down at his own choice, but it wasn't without a lot of pressure," he said. "Mark's departure didn't contain any of the normal elements of a scandal."
There wasn't an extramarital affair nor any other explosive singular event that contributed to his downfall, he argued, calling Driscoll a "brilliant communicator.
"I've never seen anything quite like this," Vanderbloemen said, noting that Driscoll ended up leaving over a wide variety of smaller infractions and debates that were perpetuated on the Internet. "We have seen a lot of guys have to leave, but never from the death of a thousand cuts that happened online."
He continued, "There was a weird sort of perfect storm of critics and disorganization."
In the end, Vanderbloemen said that Mars Hill grew very fast and simply wasn't prepared for the level of expansion it experienced. As an anecdotal result, he said that churches need to do what businesses have done, drafting plans in preparation for uncertainty.
And in the grander scheme, he said both churches and pastors need to realize that the people they start out working with on staff may not be those who are there when they jump to the next level.
"Every pastor [needs] to realize they're all interim pastors," Vanderbloemen said. "Probably the greatest gift a pastor could give to his church is to draft a plan [asking] 'What do we do if something happens?'"
Vanderbloemen, who has seen a variety of scandals and situations unfold at churches, said that he is never jaded and is, instead, quite amazed by how congregations rally in the wake of challenges.
"What's amazing to me is the resilience of a church and the ability of people to extend grace long past what the world would," he said.
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In a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, Vanderbloemen described just how much megachurches have grown, showing the need for greater consideration of these issues.
"Twenty years ago, there were only a handful of megachurches in the United States," he wrote. "According to Hartford Institute, now there are 1,300 churches in America with more than 2,000 weekend worshippers, and 50 churches with more than 10,000 weekend worshippers. Those numbers appear to only be growing."
Vanderbloemen, it seems, will have his work cut out for him, convincing these new and growing churches that they need to diligently prepare for the future. He also addresses these issues in his recently released book "Next: Pastoral Succession That Works."
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