Megachurches' Way of Worship Is on the Rise

By Jane Lampman writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, February 6, 2006 | Go to article overview

Megachurches' Way of Worship Is on the Rise


Jane Lampman writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Joel Osteen draws the largest weekly church crowd in America - 30,000, at three services. Rick Warren counsels pastors and political leaders in many countries (and has the bestselling nonfiction book in US history). Bill Hybels's Willow Creek Association mentors more than 11,000 churches.

These high-profile pastors are helping shape a religious phenomenon that has taken off in the United States. The number of megachurches - Protestant congregations with regular weekly attendance of more than 2,000 - has doubled over the past five years, according to a national study released on Feb. 3.

Megachurches Today 2005, a survey conducted by researchers at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut and Leadership Network in Dallas, has identified 1,210 American megachurches with an average weekly attendance of 3,612. Not surprisingly, the great majority are in the South, yet megachurches now can be found in all regions of the country.

While the phenomenon has developed over decades and represents only 0.5 percent of all US churches, the rising influence of megachurches reaches beyond their own congregations. They are changing the nature of worship and developing networks that help revitalize other churches and redefine church ties with other countries.

"Their influence can't be exaggerated," says Scott Thumma of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. "They set an example for other congregations that stirs them to experiment."

The study debunks many myths about supersized congregations. The vast majority, it turns out, are not politically active. Nor are they homogenous: On average, 19 percent of the congregation is a nonmajority group; 56 percent of churches are making efforts to be racially inclusive.

They are not mostly independent churches; two-thirds are affiliated with denominations. And they are part of a broader trend found in other research: a growing concentration of worshipers in the largest churches.

"Something is happening that is leading more and more people to shift from smaller to bigger congregations within all denominations, liberal and conservative," says Mark Chaves of the University of Arizona. His research shows, for example, that 15 percent of Southern Baptists attend the largest 1 percent of their churches.

What's the appeal of large churches? Commentators' favorite explanation has long been a baby-boomer desire for anonymity. People close to the scene say that may have been true 25 years ago, but not today. They see a cultural shift in which people are comfortable in big institutions. Yet most compelling, they suggest, is the expectation of quality.

"Today people demand quality, even if it's subconscious," says David Travis of Leadership Network, a church consultant group. "They find quality almost everywhere else in their lives and expect it in all venues - music, visuals, preaching, written communications."

The cost of running churches has increased, and it's increasingly difficult for small churches to deliver that level of quality, Dr. Chaves says.

The founder in 1992 of a new church that is now home to 3,000 members (70 percent formerly "unchurched") sees it a bit differently: "Churches don't get large by accident - there is an outreach of spirit, a heart for reaching people outside the church," says the Rev. James Emery White, senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C.

The Hartford study confirms that, while most megachurches have a range of evangelism programs, what most contributes to their growth is word-of-mouth, enthusiastic members reaching out to neighbors.

Megachurches are successful because they attract and retain more people over time.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Megachurches' Way of Worship Is on the Rise
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.