Sunday, February 05, 2006

megachurch city... and I'm definitely not the mayor

Interesting, given Jonny's last post on theology and community (i.e. church) that this happened to be a headline tonight.

Megachurches Growing In Number And Size (courtesy of Yahoo! News)

So, I generally have a huge problem with these sort of church settings. I make assumptions, like, if they have 5000 members, their theology has to be so watered down it's pathetic. Because I guess I also make assumptions about people that go to megachurches, such as (in the Springs) New Life, or Willow Creek, or The Chapel. That people can't be so materialistic and caught up in their Land Rovers and indoor swimming pools and be Christians. Something about that camel and a needle's eye thing. But maybe this has to do with the fact I'm so poor that I have to make decisions between getting my oil changed and buying food. And I have to admit I'd like to have a little more money, and maybe I'm just hypocritical and jealous. Now that I've aired that little bit of moral introspection.....

So, what do you guys think? The article above makes the following comment that I actually grunted/chuckled/hmmmed at out loud:

The growth of megachurches in recent decades has come about because of a common historic cycle in U.S. religion: faith institutions reinventing themselves to meet the consumerlike demands of worshippers, said Paul Harvey, American history professor at the University of Colorado who specializes in U.S. religious history.

That last phrase gets to me. I don't want to be part of U.S. religious history? And are megachurches anything other than that, really?


At 2/07/2006 10:22 AM, Anonymous Jean said...

I wonder what size Catholic parishes have been. Is Notre Dame a mega church?

At 2/07/2006 1:15 PM, Blogger adam said...

there are just different ways of measuring. The typical evangelical church counts by members, and normally members are those of age with a personal relationship with jesus christ. Catholic parishes measure by families, and a family is generally considered three people to a household and each was baptized. So my church is 4000 familes (2000) attend every Sunday, but if you count individually (because some families are larger than three) we have about 15,000 members. Though this normally would be considered a mega church it is not by Catholic standards. It is just what is considered "a large parish". Another piece or two of information that is important to consider is actual growth vs. transfer growth. Most mega-churches are made of a majority of transfer growth- members from other local churches. So is it really growth at all?

The statistics I've seen in class report the Catholic church is the second fastest growing in the country, and the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints is the first. In the world the Catholic Church (seen as serperate from other Protestant and Orthodox bodies of faith) is the fastest growing faith followed closely by Islam. I don't know how accurate these statistics are, but I trust them for the most part having been given them by professors I trust.

At 2/07/2006 3:00 PM, Blogger Dusty said...

We just read an article on Church attendence in the US is drastically overreported. Protestants self-report at about a 45% rate according Gallup polls and similar events. Tha authors, basing their research on one county in OH, discovered that actual average attendence were about 20%. This county self-reported attendance at a 37% clip.

Catholics were also discovered to be over-reporting attendance by about 50% as well. One parish claiming an attendence of around 750, and an actual count by the researchers of less than 300...If anyone wants the link to the article, I will go find it...


At 2/07/2006 9:26 PM, Blogger Steven-Michael Wesley Jesse Tyler Brooks Johnson said...

Good point about transfer growth members; I wish it were possible to measure which traditions were bringing in the most new believers.

Of course, its not just about bringing in new believers; but also building up those who confess Jesus as Lord

At 2/09/2006 12:57 PM, Blogger Victoria said...

As a person who grew up in a very large congregation, I'd like to say that not all megachurches have "theology so watered down it's pathetic" or a congregation "caught up in their Land Rovers and indoor swimming pools." I was lucky enough to be surrounded by intelligent and dedicated Christians who challenged me in my own growth and taught me the importance of service. As in any size church, the experience is what you make of it. People can serve the community or not, learn or not, and live their faith or not. It's not the size of the church that makes the difference.

At 2/10/2006 2:07 AM, Blogger Liza said...

Point taken, Victoria. I've definitely been to small churches that are lacking, and some huge ones that have the right stuff.
Like I mentioned in my post, those comments are immediate assumptions of mine, and I recognize the error of them. What I worry about is the content of the article I listed, including the quote posted here, about the church reinventing itself to meet the consumerlike demands of worshippers. I don't really think I have to provide any commentary on that last sentence. eeeek. I don't want to see the Bride, to use a John Sanders-ism, head down the slippery slope. And since megachurches are on the rise, I just wanted to stir up some debate/discussion/debacle on here to see what people thought the correlation between these two might be.


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