Ten years ago, if you looked at “celebrity pastors,” many would have considered Bill Hybels and James MacDonald to be as solid as they come. The expectation is that they would both finish well and that their organizations would continue strongly with a smooth transition to the next generation.
And yet these two pastors of two churches, both in the Chicago area, ended their ministries with their reputations in tatters. What are we to make of this?
Is the problem that of megachurches? Is it the nature of megachurches to foster such unhealthy leadership?
I am no fan of megachurches. I have no interest in pastoring or attending a megachurch. But I don’t think megachurches are the problem.
Yes we are hearing about Bill Hybels and James MacDonald (and Mark Driscoll before them) because of the size of their churches. But there are plenty of unhealthy leaders in small churches. In fact I would suggest that there are more small church pastors abusing their authority than megachurch pastors. This is because there are so few megachurches compared to small churches.
We simply don’t hear as much about the crash and burn of small church pastors. It is not as newsworthy. But it happens all the time.
The problem is not that there are megachurches. The problem is that churches are comprised of and are led by sinful human beings.
I’m not dismissing their actions under the excuse, “They’re just being human.” Churches and leaders have the responsibility to keep people accountable, foster healthy cultures and to lead as Jesus led. I’m simply saying that this is the struggle for megachurches and small churches and everything in between.
The fallout from the actions of Bill Hybels and James MacDonald may be more widespread but it is no different in kind to the abuse of authority that takes place in small churches and small towns every day.