From Academic Kids

The rise of the megachurch is a recent phenomenon within Protestantism. These are large churches, frequently defined as having more than 2,000 worshippers for a typical weekly service, seen as a new phenomenon in Christianity. Most megachurches tend to be evangelical (with a smaller number being pentecostal) in their theology, while necessarily avoiding taking unusual or unconventional doctrinal positions or advocating difficult demands of asceticism.

The phenomenon is mainly American, typically found in exurban areas of the Sun Belt in the southern United States. Megachurches are found elsewhere, examples are Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea (780,000 members in 2003) and Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia (15,000 attending each Sunday).

While large churches with buildings for large numbers of worshippers have existed for most of the history of Christianity, these large churches usually existed to accommodate pilgrimage sites and other throngs of non-local worshippers. The Angelus Temple built by the religious broadcaster Aimee Semple McPherson is perhaps a transitional structure; this house of worship could seat 5,000 people, but it is unclear how many of the worshippers actually belonged to her Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and how many were guests drawn by her radio broadcasts. The contemporary megachurch, with a large number of local congregants who return on a weekly basis, began in the 1950s.


Denominational links

More than half of these large church institutions are non-denominational churches; those that have ties to a larger body are most often members of the Southern Baptist denomination, which accounts for perhaps one in five megachurches. The Assemblies of God claim approximately one in ten. Another one tenth of the churches with congregations large enough to be included in the class are associated with historically African American denominations. Even those megachurches that belong to denominations generally have more in common with other megachurches than they do with smaller churches within their own denomination.

Adjustments to cater for size

Coping with the large numbers of people who attend them requires many adjustments.

Worship in a megachurch tends to be more formal in practice, even as it becomes less traditional in tone. Because megachurches command resources that smaller churches cannot, they typically hire professional musicians who perform upbeat, modern praise music in a number of pop styles instead of traditional hymns. Despite the contemporary music, worship at a megachurch is a highly structured occasion. The worshippers are more audience than participants, and the entire production is typically choreographed in minute detail.

The architecture of the megachurch needs to ensure everyone can see and hear what is happening. Large open spaces allowing line of sight, but using elaborate video presentations and projections are common. Amplified sound dominates overcoming limits imposed by acoustics, mixing boards and high levels of production are found generally. Words to hymns and songs are projected on screens, reducing reliance on the hymnals found in the pews of more traditional churches.

The need for large parking lots to accommodate worshippers has led these churches to often be located on the outskirts of large cities, on tracts of an acre (4,000 m²) or more.

The ministry of these churches must also be adjusted to cope with their size. Much of the actual teaching work of the church is handled by committees and smaller meetings outside the weekly services themselves, which are almost exclusively meant for collective (sometimes enthusiastic) but passive worship. Many megachurches were launched by a single gifted pastor, a person who combines flamboyant sermons with the organisational skills needed to turn weekly worship into a production number. There is sometimes an element of a cult of personality within some of these megachurches, which can lead to divisions and organisational difficulties when the founder retires or dies. Some megachurches have been able to weather these difficulties; others have failed.


Megachurches appeal to baby boomers and others who enjoy the polished showmanship of the worship services, and who find the size of the organisation and the upbeat style of these churches appealing. Some worshippers like the size because it allows them to retain more anonymity if they choose, than would be possible in a smaller church. The large numbers of worshippers is not for these believers a problem of scale; it is a demonstration of the dynamism of the institution. Other Christians find the polish of the services and the impersonal nature of worship in these megachurches disconcerting.

As stated earlier, they are typically exurban in the Sun Belt in the southern United States.

Megachurches, locations, their founding and current pastors

In the U.S.A.

For a comprehensive list of megachurches in the U.S.A.

see Hartford Seminary--Hartford Institute for Religion Research Megachurch database (

Megachurches outside the U.S.A.

South Korea



See also


External links


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