The megachurch movement has been one of the most exciting examples of church growth in the past few decades, impacting not only North America, but also the entire globe (note that to qualify as a megachurch, a community of faith would typically need to consist of 2000 or more people in weekend worship attendance). Perhaps the most well-known transition in the megachurch world is the one articulated by Chris Galanos, chronicled in his book, From Megachurch to Multiplication (ExperienceLifeNow.com, 2018) and featured in the Jan-Feb 2020 issue of Mission Frontiers.
An Interview with Chris Galanos, Lead Pastor at Experience Life Church in Austin, Texas
DL: Chris, can you paint for us a quick picture of what has happened at Experience Life Church?
Chris: Sure. We started eLife, as we often call it, in April 2007 in our living room with 12 other people. We prayed that first night that the Lord would allow us to see 10,000 people commit their lives to Christ in the next 10 years. By year eight, we passed the 10,000 mark. At that time, we began to ask, “Lord, what do You want us to pray for in the next 10 years?” Around that same time, God brought a number of influences into our lives that exposed us to what He was doing through these miraculous movements overseas. We heard about millions, not just thousands of people coming to Christ. I remember asking our Leadership Team the rhetorical question, “Do you think God could do here what He’s doing in India, China and parts of Africa?” We all agreed that He could. Through prayer, fasting and studying His Word we began to believe God was leading us to pray for 1,000,000 disciples in the next 10 years. And that’s the exciting journey we’ve been on ever since.
DL: Help us grasp the difference you saw between addition and multiplication.
Chris: You’ve got to multiply disciples to reach millions, not just add to weekend worship services. Meaning, you have to let it move away from you. If you try to control it and keep it close to you, you’ll only get addition. But if you let disciples multiply away from you, like these movements are doing overseas, you could see millions reached.
DL: I’m not sure there are very many megachurch pastors who would have taken such radical steps. It just seems like there’s a conflict of interest or something. The very applecart you were shaking up was the source of your salary, as well as the livelihoods of everyone on your church staff.
Chris: Whatever the Spirit leads us to do, we should do. The church is not ours, it’s His. If He tells us to lead the church in a different direction than it’s gone for the last 10 years, we must follow His lead. If He tells us to become bi-vocational and give our salaries back to the church to be used for ministry, we must follow His lead. None of this was our idea. I don’t think most people would go this direction if they were thinking just about what’s best for them or their family. We believe God spoke to us and we’ve done our best to follow His lead, regardless of the cost.