Unintended consequences of megachurches

The larger the group, the less the individual involvement.  That’s a long-established finding of social science.  So what does that mean for very large churches?  New research has shown that those who attend megachurches are less involved in their congregation than those who attend smaller churches.  That may be obvious, but the researcher then raises a disturbing question:  Has the rise of the megachurch thus contributed to the overall decline of religion in the United States?

I am not attacking big churches.  It’s natural for a congregation to want to become as big as possible, and many large congregations are quite orthodox.  But churches need to face up to this data.  Are there other unintended consequences of megachurches?  Is there a way to counter them?  How might a big congregation increase individual involvement?  Or should big churches split into smaller congregations, once they reach a particular size?

[Read more…]

How megachurches are doing

Megachurches continue to attract big numbers, but, according to a new study, people aren’t attending as often; the churches are keeping baby boomers but losing Gen-Xers and Millennials;  and they are emulating smaller congregations by having smaller sanctuaries with more services and having multiple sites. [Read more…]

“Power of Positive Thinking” founder dies

Rev. Robert Schuller, one of the pioneering megachurch pastors with his Crystal Cathedral and “power of positive thinking” theology, died at the age of 88. [Read more…]

A watershed in American evangelicalism?

The New Life Church in Colorado Springs was one of the nation’s leading megachurches.  But then its pastor, Ted Haggard, was brought down in a sex and drug scandal.  Now the congregation is changing the way it is doing things.  Instead of trying to be new, it is trying to find its place in historic Christianity.  This means bringing in liturgy, every-Sunday communion, the church year, and pastoral care.  Its new statement of faith is the Nicene Creed.

Christianity Today published a sympathetic in-depth article about the changes last month.  Lutheran scholar Martin Noland sees these developments as possibly “a watershed in American evangelicalism.” [Read more…]

Do church growth tactics attract the unchurched?

The best argument for adopting the techniques of the Church Growth movement–contemporary worship, non-traditional styles, and culturally-relevant practices–is to reach the lost, the unbelievers, the unchurched.  Such “missional” concerns often trump all other considerations.  It’s hard to argue against the importance of evangelism and the Great Commission.

But the question remains, do the Church Growth techniques that have given us so many megachurches, in fact, attract non-Christians and others who do not normally go to church?

I stumbled across a study of those who attend megachurches–one that is actually pro-megachurch in many ways–that found that only 2% do not describe themselves as “committed followers of Jesus Christ,” and only 6% do not come from other congregations. [Read more…]

Stranger in a Strange Church

Philip Jenkins cites the prescience of science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, whose novel Stranger in a Strange Land, written in 1961, posits a church of the future that sounds strangely prophetic:

“At a time of social chaos, seminary reject Joseph Foster proclaimed a spiritual message uniquely suited for America, a nation that had always combined public puritanism with private libertinism. But why not combine the two instincts, creating a religion that spoke the language of fervent piety, while tolerating virtually any behavior? . . . . [Read more…]


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