The megachurch boom rolls on, but big concerns are rising too

(RNS) Change is coming to American megachurches — those behemoths for believers that now dot the religious landscape.

There are more participants in megachurch worship than ever.

“Last weekend 1 in 10 adults and children who went to a Protestant church went to a megachurch — about 5 million people,” said Warren Bird, director of research for Leadership Network and co-author of a megachurch study released Wednesday (Dec. 2).

But individual attendance is down to once or twice a month — or less.

Interesting. As we know from recent independent polling that non-denominational Christianity is on the rise (along with non-religion). I wonder if the two trends are somewhat related at all with mega churches potentially drawing people away from religion ultimately?

Or if non-denominational Christians are simply finding smaller churches to attend when they’re not attending the mega church itself. Or if they’re simply tuning in online/TV to the megachurch so aren’t being counted as part of the attendance when in fact they are “attending” just at home. I mean many of the mega churches do broadcast their entire service online which if you think about it does remove the necessity to attend the service (since unlike Catholics or high church protestants they don’t usually believe in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist).

I’ll have to ask my two co-workers opinions on the matter. Both attend what would be classified as non-denominational megachurches (one attends a church with an average of 2,300 Sunday worshipers (at one location), the other 14,500 (most at one main location and a few thousand at several small satellite locations). Numbers which frankly boggle my mind since my church is well attended IMO and we have an average attendance on Sunday of 632.

I would say attending a smaller non-denominational Church could very well be a possibility. I’ve been non-denominational for 37 years now and don’t think I’ve ever stepped foot in a Church for service that would be a “mega Church”.

I skimmed the article, what defines a “mega Church”?

Every notice those big mega churches arising out of nowhere and collapsing under the weight of all the mega expenses? it happens a lot. Proliferation of churches are part of the devils plan to lure people into the false belief that they can decide for themselves what is right and wrong aka pleasing to their own lifestyle. The time to evangelize is now. People need God more than ever.

Um…so my being raised non-denominational makes me part of the devils plan?

Mega Churches are usually considered “Christian” Churches that have more than 2000 weekend worshipers attending. There are over 1300 of these churches nationwide. Hartford Institute has a listing of almost all of them (along with a number of churches that aren’t technically mega-churches but are close in the 1500-2000 range.

You personally… no.

But the “non-denominational” (which is really false, each “non-denominational” church is really a denomination of one) is bad because each pastor of a “non-denominational” church is in essence his own Pope.

When you have thousands of different interpretations of faith, it starts to water down the faith. Some preachers push their own interpretations for sinister reasons (though most are genuinely trying to spread the Gospel).

But the real problem is that many of them are using this “organized religion is bad” tag line. Organized religion (especially the Catholic Church) allows for unity. Many peoples from different areas all sharing the same faith. No matter where you travel, you can go to Church.

But non-denominational trend causes disunity because even though all Christians share The Bible, the non-denominationals increase the number of interpretations which creates confusion and disunity in terms of Faith.

I pray I’m making sense.

God bless.

isn’t that 2000 number supposed to be at one service?

Many Catholic Churches have over 2000 people attending on Sundays, but not all at the same Mass.

No it’s average weekend attendance. Yes many of the mega churches have more than 2000 at one service. But the trend is considered to include any of these “Christian” churches that have over 2000 weekend attendees. Pew, Hartford Institute and Wikipedia utilize this weekend definition. This definition has been in part due to many of the mega churches that originally have one large service dividing the services up and/or opening satellite locations and either replicating the main site’s sermon (or simply rebroadcasting it). The coworker I mentioned above attends “The Rock Church” in San Diego, but she physically goes to one of their satellite locations in a neighboring city where they broadcast the sermon from the main location in San Diego out to. She sees it live, but not in the same building or even city as the pastor.

Catholic Churches aren’t included because they’re not considered “Christian” (ie: read non-denominational, charismatic or Pentecostal (I hesitate to call them Protestant because they typically don’t consider themselves Protestant, more post-Protestant)). Regardless Catholic and Mainline Protestant churches, even the ones that do average over 2000 on a weekend, wouldn’t fit this classification.

So what you are saying is to be considered a Mega-Church you cannot have an IRS exemption. (The IRS does not consider non-denominational Churches as “Churches” so they have to pay taxes)

A “mega-church” has nothing to do with the number of people in it. It has to do with a certain ‘style’ of worship and attraction.
Large medieval Cathedrals served large cities in which travel was not like it is today. People did not attend to hear the latest medieval christian rock band or hear the most dynamic medieval preacher.
They went there to recieve the Body of Christ and hear the Word of God.
Evangelical “mega-churches” are a complete and different animal. People will travel for MILES to attend one, and they are not what one would consider a ‘community’ church.

When I lived in a much larger city and was still an evangelical myself I remember several mainline Protestant churches in a certain section of town complaining thier memberships were dwindling because the local “mega-church” was stealing sheep.
And they had a right to complain.
These tiny Protestant mainline churches could not afford a “million dollar sound system” nor the “hottest acts in town” with “closed circut TV” and internet streaming.
I knew these men. They served God in the best way possible, they taught the Bible, they served their people. They had a modest choir with a piano and organ, they were not on TV with thier “dynamic preaching”, they taught the Word as best they could. The choir sang the best they could.
I felt so sorry for these men, they watched thier young people leave even though they had a youth group. They watched thier older people hang on as best they could until one day the doors closed.
Sorry if I am a little cynical about “mega-churches”, I have seen first hand the type of damage done by them.
Even though I am Catholic now, I feel these tiny mainline churches were serving God in a far greater way than some smoke and mirrors mega-Churches. What did Paul call them? Clanging cymbals?
If I were Protestant again, give me a tiny church with a modest choir, a old piano and an honest pastor any day over these over-blown entertainment centers.

I don’t think this is correct.

I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree then.

I have never once learned that “organized religion is bad…mmmkay” line.

Coming from a non-denominational background, I thought we were all united in Faith…Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, etal, for good and for God. I’m quickly learning that not to be the case.

Watch this:

I watched it when I was looking into creating a Religious Non-Profit organization.

I attended a megachurch for a few years. People did seem to be worshiping genuinely. One day I looked around and made some observations. The lights were dim, and you could only really see the band on stage, and not really the people around you. The music was really loud, and you could really only hear yourself sing along with the band. I suddenly realized that there were 3500 people in the “worship center”, and every one of them was “worshiping” (singing) by themselves. That was one of the last times I attended there.

Not at all. Most mega churches as I understand it are also tax exempt (assuming they applied to be so). No it’s a definition based on size, and on being nominally protestant. And as mentioned above they tend to have a certain style of worship. Very informal, sermon/teaching based and mixed with modern music/lightshows/visuals etc…

The type is of course typified by the largest MegaChurch in the US, Lakewood Church, and its pastor Joel Osteen. Another good example of the type is The Rock Church in San Diego, which is smaller than Lakewood, and utilizes the more satellite model I mentioned above.

Yes, evangelical relatives I know believe it is laudable to physically attend church services but feel no compulsion to do so every Sunday. When you lack a sacramental theology, worship at home is not that fundamentally distinct from worship at church.

We are united in Faith in Jesus Christ. And we are all united in orthodox understanding of Scripture. The problem is that some of non-denominationals (esp some of these mega-Churches) us gimmicks… like making people fall down, etc. When they are exposed as fakes, it hurts the faith.

Also, when people preach on their own authority, they say whatever they want. Sometimes they are not guided by The Holy Spirit.

I assume they must also be evangelical / Pentecostal Protestant to meet the definition? Evangelical megachurches tend to only have a couple services, led by the same senior pastor, in vast assembly halls with potentially thousands of people at each service. Many Catholic parishes across North America would have more than 2000 weekly attendees, but parishes of that size would spread the congregation out over several (perhaps 7 - 12) masses celebrated by different priests…very different approach / experience. I bet our local cathedral here in Vancouver has the attendance of a “megachurch” but spread over 8 weekend masses.

This I agree with.

As far as preaching in the church, I find it no different than attending bible-study. Reading the bible, studying, and applying it to current life situations.

Honestly, not much different than many of the sermons I can hear at Mass.

Thing is, I think we’re lumping the “Mega-Church” in with all non-denominational, and that’s not fair. The mega church isn’t a true representation.

I laugh at some people complaining about “non-denominationals and their rock&roll music” when at the Church I attended for a good 10 years, music wasn’t allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit