Posts Tagged ‘Mt. Paran Church’

Why Megachurches are on the Rise

April 8, 2013

Going with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson to the 10,000-member Mt. Paran Church in Atlanta Easter Sunday got me to thinking about the megachurch phenomenon, and about why it has happened.  While confidence in organized religion in the United States is at its lowest point in three decades, according to a Gallup poll,  megachurches continue to be on the rise.

The latest Gallop  poll on the subject that I could find, which was taken in July of 2012, shows that only 44 percent of Americans now have confidence in organized religion.  That’s overall. Break it down, Protestants have the most confidence, at 56 percent,  compared with 46 percent of Catholics.  Factor in other religions and the non-religious and you get the 44 percent number.

The growth in megachurches has been dramatic. In the U.S., they have more than quadrupled in the past two  decades.  Wikipedia reports, “It has since spread worldwide. In 2007, five of the ten largest Protestant churches were in South Korea.[7] The largest mega church in the United States is Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas with more than 40,000 members every weekend and the current largest megachurch in the world is South Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, with more than 830,000 members as of 2007.”

After searching the Internet for articles explaining this phenomenon, the best one I found was one published November of last year in the Knoxville News Sentinel.  It was posted by By Meghan Davis.

For one thing, she introduced us to the findings of Omri Elisha, an assistant professor or anthropology at Queens College, City University of New York, who spent two years in Knoxville studying .  He wrote the book Moral Ambition: Mobilization and Social Outreach in Evangelical Megachurches.  Among the reasons he gives is”Megachurches offer a wide array of ministries and services. From spiritual growth and religious education to youth programs, volunteer opportunities, social networking and even career development, megachurches have the resources, the staff and the space to provide many more avenues of participation than one typically finds in smaller churches.”

I saw evidences of all of that at  the Mt. Paran Church.  The megachurches like Mt. Paran offer artistic opportunities, also, with huge choirs,  substantial orchestras,  rock-style music combos, that combine with charismatic ministers to provide highly emotional spiritual experiences.

Next in this series, we’ll look at something new to me.  A friend of mine, after reading my first post on megachurches, brought me a copy of Harpers that contains an article explaining how hippie Christians of the 1970s “begat evangelical conservatives.”

The Rise of the Evangelical Megachurch

April 1, 2013

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.