Richard Flory, one of my favorite observers of Christianity in America, weighs in on the bankruptcy of the “first” mega-church:
Megachurches like the Crystal Cathedral have become successful by doing two things really well. First, they use professional-quality entertainment and familiar (and often secular) cultural themes in their services to make their members more comfortable. Second, through these programs, megachurches have turned themselves into a destination for their members on days besides Sunday, and this creates a distinct sense of community. One result has been the creation of a huge market in Christian consumer goods like T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, and music. The church grounds are often campus-like, with bookstores, public gathering areas, and food courts—which of course serve Starbucks coffee.
Yet this large-scale consumerist model also entails immense costs: not only employees to run and track the many ministries and programs but also maintenance of the physical plants that support all these activities. Just think, for example, of the cost of maintaining a building made entirely of glass.
HT: Dan Yim