So if we take a closer look at megachurch theology it turns out there is, indeed, a specific branch of it as such. That is, there are theologies that are specifically related to megachurches. Much of this comes from a recently deceased gentleman by the name of C Peter Wagner, who was resident for a long time at Fuller Theological Seminary in California, where he undoubtedly influenced the fledgling Vineyard movement – his title for at least part of that time was “Professor of Church Growth”. Later on he branched out to form “Wagner Leadership Institute”, now Wagner University and currently unaccredited. Theologically, Wagner definitely sat at the more fervent end of the Pentecostal theological spectrum, and much of his work appears strong in espousing various Pentecostal-focused viewpoints of the church, and have definitely been seen to be controversial in Christian circles.
Wagner’s specific work that is particularly relevant to megachurches appears to sit in two areas in particular:
- Church growth strategy. Apart from his title, Wagner was apparently considered to be a leader of a “Church Growth Movement”. Wikipedia has a specific page for this and it does appear to be a real thing in Christianity as such. From that we can learn that church growth arose out of natural desire for effective evangelism, but over time criticism has arisen that it has become just some formulas for growing churches and the focus has shifted to numbers and success.
- New Apostolic Reformation. This idea is that apostolic leadership is becoming more entrenched into certain types of churches. This is certainly a part of the characteristic “presidential” governance model seen in many megachurches, with generally just one person at the top and everyone else below them, even if they claim to have a board of elders as these will often be personally appointed by the leader.
CCNZ believes that it will be relatively straightforward to show that Wagner’s theological viewpoints fall into the more extreme American theologies that are commonly tied very much into the cultural worldview of the USA and generally aren’t that popular outside that continent. This could then lead to suggestions that megachurches have a flaky theological foundation in general when they have adopted growth strategies for the sake of numbers, and when their leadership is mostly focused on a single apostolic visionary. We will write the church governance thread first of all, then research Wagner’s material and come back to look specifically at megachurches.