A Bad Way to Argue About Churches

There’s a video in which Perry Noble makes a very silly argument, namely that his multi-site megachurch is right in God’s eyes because it’s so darn popular. (He also implies that Acts 8 supports video re-broadcasting at multiple sites, which is just bizarre.) What I want to do when I hear such arguments from pastors is ask them if that means that Benny Hinn is one of the most righteous preachers of all time. I mean the guy goes around selling out stadiums all over, right? Most pastors (outside the far-end of the charismatic movement) that I know would not agree with such a statement, and they certainly have a great deal of evidence to support their reservations about Benny Hinn.

There is also an inverse of this appeal to popularity, a sort of appeal to unpopularity – the hipster fallacy if you will. In the circles where this sort of hipsterism matters, the more obscure something is, the more your status is increased by liking it. Conversely, liking something popular (unless it is for ironic purposes) is damaging to one’s status. A ministry, like a band, will not necessarily get worse the more popular it becomes (though it can, The Black-Eyed Peas were so much better before Fergie and major-label success)

Popularity or lack thereof can at best be proxies for indicating some other reality – both positive and negative. A popular ministry might be an indication that it is actually effectively doing what it is supposed to do and that people are drawn to it. It may also be popular because it is insipid and unchallenging, it asks little of people so they go to it for undemanding good feelings. The profile that megachurches obtain in both the Christian world and the wider culture requires that megachurch pastors and their acolytes possess the humility to take criticism without deflecting it all with a line like “we’re popular and therefore Godly.”

Bonus: Bill Kinnon has a very fun photoshop of Perry Noble.