There is nothing inherently good or evil about church size. It is the coveting of size and status that is the wellspring of evil. The underlying deception is that godliness is a means of gain. But Paul’s solution is to see that godliness is in fact a means of gain (I Tim 6:5-6). The question is, what do you want to gain? A life of faithful, godly ministry is loaded with gains. You gain life, immortality, joy, peace, and closeness with God. There’s no prohibition against wanting those things. You’ll never covet access to God, no matter how much you want it. In the end, the solution to coveting is wanting the right thing.
You shall not covet… — Deuteronomy 5:21
“Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor” (Ecc 4:4). Really? All toil? All skill? All driven by envy?
What would that say about your ministry? It would say that your ministry (yes, yours), is in your own human, fallen way, driven by envy. You want reputation, or accolades, platform, or influence. In other words, you want the same things everyone wants, and ministry is a tool to get it. That doesn’t mean godly, Christ-honoring ministry is impossible, through God’s grace. It means that those engaged in Christian ministry (which, at some level, includes every genuine Christian) need to be aware of our covetousness and the direction it will try to see us.
The phenomenon of the megachurch serves as a useful foil in exposing the particular bent of our covetousness. The proliferation of megachurches in America, combined with the advent of the digital age has brought the issue of covetous comparison much closer than ever before. The country pastor can no longer pretend that he is the only voice that can be heard for miles around.
The country minister’s experience is much like living in a remote and forgotten suburb that is going through rapid gentrification. It is not as if there are suddenly more wealthy people everywhere, while your standard of living has remained flat. It is rather that you feel a heightened proximity to large amounts of wealth. Similarly, it is not as if there are suddenly more godly, brilliant, or charismatic Christian leaders in the world. It’s simply that the celebrities feel much closer.
Our visceral response to the megachurch kicks out in two directions.