Black Christian new writes:
The emergence of the megachurch as a model of metropolitan ministry is one of the defining marks of evangelical Christianity in the United States. Megachurches -- huge congregations that attract thousands of worshipers -- arrived on the scene in the 1970s and quickly became engines of ministry development and energy.Over the last 40 years, the megachurch has made its presence known, often dominating the Christian landscape within the nation's metropolitan regions. The megachurch came into dominance at the same time that massive shopping malls became the landmarks of suburban consumer life. Sociologists can easily trace the rise of megachurches within the context of America's suburban explosion and the development of the technologies and transportation systems that made both the mall and the megachurch possible.
Continue reading: Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?
- A Landmark Case Study of a Megachurch (msahlin.typepad.com)
The patterns of a megachurch look much like those of its niche in the world; fragmented nodes of participation connected by the automobile and facilities much like shopping malls. The home and family have become the center of life and other institutions (work, community, politics and culture) are marginalized around the private center of each nuclear family's life.
Evangelical megachurches have become expert at providing many different modes of worship, each appealing to a specific subculture. They are dispersed, multi-modal networks that only appear to be mass organizations. They best fit the endless suburban-like social context of California which is replicated to some extent around all major metropolitan areas in North America.
- Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism? (standupforthetruth.com)
On the international scene, huge congregations can be found in many African nations and in nations such as Brazil, South Korea, and Australia. In London, where the megachurch can trace its roots back in the 19th century to massive urban congregations such as Charles Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, a few modern megachurches can be found. For the most part, however, the suburban evangelical megachurch is an American phenomenon.
Theologically, most megachurches are conservative in orientation, at least in a general sense. In America, a large number of megachurches are associated with the charismatic movement and denominations such as the Assemblies of God. Many are independent, though often loosely associated with other churches. The largest number of megachurches within one denomination is found within the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination.
A shot now reverberating around the evangelical world was fired by Atlanta megachurch pastor Andy Stanley in recent days. Preaching at North Point Community Church, in a sermon series known as “Christian,” Stanley preached a message titled “When Gracie Met Truthy” on April 15, 2012. With reference to John 1:14, Stanley described the challenge of affirming grace and truth in full measure. He spoke of grace and truth as a tension, warning that “if you resolve it, you give up something important.”
- The Big Business of the MegaChurch (jenx67.com)
- Has the Megachurch Idea Peaked? (msahlin.typepad.com)
Two items in the news this weekend tell me that the megachurch concept has peaked in American culture. From here on out it will decline, but probably never disappear.
First, the Crystal Cathedral, arguably the original megachurch, has passed to the ownership of the Roman Catholic diocese in Orange County (California) and has been renamed as a Catholic cathedral. The megachurch started by Robert Schuller is at an end after about a half century.
Second, Pastor Creflo Dollar was arrested on Friday night for beating his 15-year-old daughter. He has been a primary example of the "prosperity gospel" and African American megachurches. He will inevitably go downhill from this event despite his denial and defiance on the events in question.
This is probably as clear a marker as we will have on this trend in our culture. The idea of the megachurch will become less attractive and slowly enter into decline. But, it is unlikely to ever disappear alltogther. There will always be a strand of Christianity anchored in the culture of the affluent, suburban consumer even once the Baby Boom has passed from the world.
- God as a drug: The rise of American megachurches (esciencenews.com)
American megachurches use stagecraft, sensory pageantry, charismatic leadership and an upbeat, unchallenging vision of Christianity to provide their congregants with a powerful emotional religious experience, according to research from the University of Washington. "Membership in megachurches is one of the leading ways American Christians worship these days, so, therefore, these churches should be understood," said James Wellman, associate professor of American religion at the University of Washington. "Our study shows that -- contrary to public opinion that tends to pass off the megachurch movement as consumerist religion -- megachurches are doing a pretty effective job for their members. In fact, megachurch members speak eloquently of their spiritual growth."
The researchers also found that the large size of megachurch congregations is a benefit rather than a drawback, as it results in resources for state-of-the-art technology -- amplifying the emotional intensity of services -- and the ability to hire more qualified church leadership.
- What in the world??? (nomads2.wordpress.com)
The emergence of the megachurch was noted by sociologists and church researchers attempting to understand the massive shifts that were taking place in the last decades of the 20th century. Researchers such as Dean M. Kelley of the National Council of Churches traced the decline of the liberal denominations that once constituted the old Protestant “mainline.” This decline was contrasted with remarkable growth among more conservative denominations and churches — a pattern traced in Kelley’s 1973 landmark book, Why Conservative Churches Are Growing. Kelley argued that conservative churches were growing precisely because of their strict doctrine and moral teachings. The early megachurches were the leading edge of the growth among conservative churches, especially in metropolitan and suburban settings.
The megachurches were not without their critics. Theologian David Wells leveled a massive critique of the doctrinal minimalism, methodological pragmatism, and managerial culture of many megachurches. Os Guiness accused the megachurch movement of “flirting with modernity” to a degree that put the Christian identity of the massive congregations at risk.
- Has the Megachurch Lost Its Luster? (juicyecumenism.com)
Churches with multi-site campuses, parking garages, jumbo-trons, award-winning praise bands, laser shows, tremendous charities, political endorsements, and even in-house coffee shops sprang up across the nation. Thousands of people—unchurched, disenchanted, or pushed out of liberalizing Mainline congregations (or stringent fundamentalist ones)—flocked to these new watering holes. The droves started having offspring as smaller congregations dwindled away. A new way of “doing church” was in town, and it seemed to be primed for being the ideal model for pastors to emulate if they wanted their congregations to survive the coming millennium. However, critics of this ecclesiology came to the forefront. They complained of shallow theology, entertainment over discipleship, emotionalism, cults of ego, lack of accountability, giganticism (in terms of architecture, size, and theology), consumerism, the prosperity gospel, lack of reverence, therapeutic spirituality, and a host of other spiritual maladies. Most devastatingly, many of the megachurch’s harshest critics came from its own children. In addition, the majority of Americans that remained in smaller congregations also tended to sympathize with these critiques. Indeed, it is almost a truism now to hear a diatribe about the apparent evils of megachurch-style religion.
- Where Are the People? (theamericanscholar.org)
The Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, California, is one of America’s largest and most celebrated ecclesiastical buildings. At 60,000 square feet and designed by architect Philip Johnson, it was until recently the sanctuary of Robert H. Schuller, once one of the country’s most prominent and influential Christian ministers. In September 1980, when he dedicated the cathedral at an opening ceremony (“To the glory of man for the greater glory of God”), Schuller was at the height of his influence, preaching to a congregation of thousands in Orange County and reaching millions more worldwide via the Hour of Power, a weekly televised ministry program. Among the show’s annual highlights were “The Glory of Easter” and its companion production, “The Glory of Christmas,” multimillion-dollar dramatic extravaganzas staged inside the cathedral with a cast of professional actors, Hollywood-grade costumes, and live animals. The setting for the spectacles was a striking, soaring, light-filled structure justly praised by architecture critics. But it was not a cathedral. It was never consecrated by a religious denomination. The building is not even made of crystal, but rather 10,000 rectangular panes of glass. Like the much beloved, much pilloried Disneyland three miles to the northwest, the Crystal Cathedral is a monument to Americans’ inveterate ability to transform dominant cultural impulses—in this case, Christianity itself—into moneymaking enterprises that conquer the world.
- Getting High on God (seattleweekly.com)Karl Marx famously said that religion is the opiate of the masses, and now a new study from sociologists at the University of Washington suggests that attending a Protestant megachurch actually does produce a high much like being on drugs.The study, titled " 'God Is Like a Drug . . . ': Explaining Interaction Ritual Chains in American Megachurches," is the work of UW professor James Wellman and grad students Katie E. Corcoran and Kate Stockly-Meyerdirk. The trio pored over 470 interviews with attendees of 12 megachurches from across the United States.