A Mega Church Pastor: Perspective on Leading a large Baptist Church

 Recently, the Inquirer was able to get a Mega Church Pastor’s perspective on leading a large baptist church. The Rev. Alyn Waller was 29 when Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church asked him in 1994 to lead the 364-member Germantown congregation. By 2003, it had 5,000 members and broke ground that year on a 94,000-square-foot church at 2800 Cheltenham Ave. Today, Enon counts 14,000 members – the largest congregation in the Philadelphia area. I found the interview with Inquirer religion reporter David O’Reilly very informative, enjoy:

Question: Did you expect to make Enon into a megachurch when you arrived?

The Rev. Alyn Waller: It was the farthest thing from my mind. I did feel the Lord had called me to serve in an urban context, but I never expected it to develop into what it’s become.

Q: Is there an upside and a downside to leading so large a congregation?

Waller: There are trade-offs. In a small church, there is an intimacy between the people and the pastor, and you lose some of that in a church our size. But there are ways to create intimacy. And a large church has the people and resources to do ministry and outreach on a large scale. We can do things big and well.

When I started, people would call me “Rev.” It was very informal, even teasing. Now I’m “Pastor,” and everything gets quiet when I walk into a room. . . . I miss being “Rev.”

Q: Does a church Enon’s size draw members away from other congregations?

Waller: That’s a phenomenon, but we’ve found that about 55 percent of our new members are coming from no church, or no faith practice. So I don’t feel we’re draining other churches.

Q: Does Enon ask members to tithe 10 percent of their income?

Waller: We tithe because I think percentage-giving is much fairer than fixed dues. A person who earns $100 a week only gives $10. Someone who makes a $1,000 gives $100.

We also tithe as a church. Over the past five years, we have given $4.7 million to 150 organizations in the community and the mission field. We support missions in Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa.

Last year, we started an Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cape Town, which is very involved in combating human trafficking. It’s autonomous from us, but we support them. In September, 100 of our people traveled there to work with them.

Q: Why has Enon invested so much in youth sports?

Waller: I believe most of us who are successful can find another champion in our lives – someone who taught us life skills. My wrestling coach was my champion. So we have football, baseball, basketball, track, soccer, double-dutch jump-roping, chess, and a martial-arts ministry.

I have a black belt and also teach it on the side. It’s sort of my escape hatch from being a pastor.

Q: Many evangelical churches are uncomfortable with AIDS and HIV, but Enon is proactive about testing. Why?

Waller: The evangelical community has not figured out how to address this disease, because it’s so caught up with complex issues of sexual activity and sexual orientation. But it’s more than an issue of morality. It’s a health issue.

I buried my best friend to AIDS in 1995. If we’re ever going to put it in the polio category, we have to find out where it is. We tell people that as a responsible Christian, you should “know your numbers.”
In 2008 and again last month, we created a testing center in the church. The first time, we had over 1,000 men screened not just for HIV but cholesterol, blood pressure, prostate cancer. Last month, we had more than 800.

My liberal friends say the churches should adopt a pro-homosexual agenda. My conservative friends want to come in and anoint [heal] homosexuals. My feeling is we can address the health issues without getting bogged down in the ancillary arguments.

Q: Tell us about this photo over your desk of a small boy sitting in Martin Luther King Jr.’s lap.

Waller: That’s me. It was taken in September 1967, when I was 31/2. My father was a pastor in Ohio, very involved in civil rights and friends with Dr. King. For his fourth pastoral anniversary, [King] preached at our church.

From them I learned that a right relationship with God is going to lead you back into a social agenda of righteousness and reconciliation – that you sow back into the community.

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Source: Phillynews.com
By: David O’Reilly

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