The Rise of the Evangelical Megachurch

Photo: Three generations of McMichaels

It’s always good to be with family on special holidays, and I was fortunate to be with my son Rick, grandson Ben, and daughter-in-law Marian this Easter.  She’s not in the pic because she was down in Atlanta’s Mt. Paran Church’s music department getting her french horn ready for the choir and orchestra’s Easter performance.  She plays French horn in the orchestra and Rick and Ben sing in the choir.  I counted 30 in the orchestra Sunday, and the choir had at least 125 singers.  Were they good? Very! Am I biased?  Of course. But, really,  they had a triumphant sound Sunday.

60 is a big crowd at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus where I attend most Sundays.  And the largest UU congregation in Georgia, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, has about 800 members.  The Mt. Paran sanctuary must hold two to three thousand people and it was totally packed for two services Sunday.  I had to park on the top deck of the church’s four-deck parking garage.  The church, I am told, has about 10,000 members.  That’s big, but not as big as Worldchangers International in College Park, Georgia which has a sanctuary that seats more than 8,000 and has 30,000 members, and a controversial pastor named Creflow Dollar, who, according to Wikipedia, owned a $1,000,000 mansion and, among other things, two Rolls Royces, and a private jet.  It appears that evangelical churches, especially the Pentecostal and  Charismatic ones, are attracting more and more  people, as some of the old mainstream traditional churches, that still keep things simple and don’t do  light shows and have 30 piece orchestras and 125 member choirs, are losing them.

According to article in The Knoxville News Sentinal, a sociological study shows “more than half of all American churchgoers now attend the largest 10 percent of churches.” The article also states the number of megachurches has doubled since 2000 and “there are now more than 1,200 of these churches throughout the United States. One in three are in the Southeast.”

And this phenomenon is not just in the United States. For instance, Brazil has the largest concentration of Catholics in the world, but in recent years the church has lost 20 percent of its membership.  It seems that most of that 20 percent have moved to evangelical churches.  The National Catholic Report puts it this way, “Brazil, the largest Catholic country in the world at 149 million, loses half a million Catholics every year. Protestants have grown from nine percent of Brazil’s population in 1991 to 15.1 percent (some say as much as 22 percent), while the proportion of Catholics has dropped from 84 percent to 67 percent. In Mexico, 88 percent of a population of 102 million is now Catholic, a decline of 10 percent compared to the mid-20th century.” I heard about an evangelical church being built in Mexico will seat 21,000 people.

Why has this trend happened?  Stay tuned.



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