How Megachurches Have Killed the Practice of Prayer

How Megachurches Have Killed the Practice of Prayer June 18, 2015
© Galina Barskaya | Dreamstime Stock Photos
© Galina Barskaya | Dreamstime Stock Photos

It suddenly dawned on me last Sunday: Prayer is not media-friendly.

In this past year, I’ve visited over forty different types of churches, writing up my experiences for a regional newspaper. I then post the columns on this blog and write a more thorough analysis of what I saw and experienced.

Many of the places I visited are quite large, often multi-site. Messages come from the lead pastor, nearly always a charismatic and photogenic younger man. Most are live-streamed, using multiple stationary cameras along with an ever-moving boom camera to help keep the TV/Web-streaming audience engaged.

Few of the worship services I attended had time set aside for prayer. None of those with live-streaming do. Why? Churches web-streaming their services dare not practice silence or quietness. Music, movement, words and enthusiasm must fill each millisecond. It’s the nature of media–silence in a broadcast is the kiss of death.

Almost all the very large churches I’ve visited follow the same worship formula: no spoken greeting, but opens with 20-25 minutes of very loud music accompanied by dancing girls. High-speed video announcements follow and then a 30-45 minute sermon by the big-name pastor which is usually done by video. Perhaps another song and a dismissal. While money is earnestly desired, the act of receiving the offering and dedicating it to God as a part of worship has nearly disappeared. Membership covenants that mean a pledge of a certain income percentage keep the coffers full. And prayer is nearly non-existent.

That’s what hit me so hard on Sunday, June 14, 2015. Much of that service was spent in prayer, both corporate and private. We acknowledged the presence of God in prayer. We confessed our sins together, first with a written prayer, second with private prayer. We prayed for the world at large and then for those closest to our hearts. We prayed together the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. We were still. We had silence.

There were no cameras. There was no broadcast. It was just us.

Most find prayer a difficult discipline to master, coming easy to few, if any. It is also an essential discipline for those who wish to move to spiritual maturity.

Most megachurches work diligently to channel people into smaller home/study groups. I assume prayer takes place there. However, the practice of prayer is not modeled or experienced in the larger worship gatherings. Those who get their entire spiritual nourishment from webcasts have never seen any more than a token prayer.

I’ve written before about how megachurches have accidentally killed Christian community. It appears another death follows their ever-enlarging territory. We are all the poorer because of it.

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  • Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

    AND WE END UP SQUIRRELING AWAY OUFR RESOURCES.

    • Helen Blake

      Very thought provoking Christy – thank you.
      Interestingly I moved away from liturgical churches for the same reason – the liturgy was drowning me and invitations to pray quietly in our hearts lasted for about thirty seconds if we were lucky – there seemed to be a need to fill every moment with words of some sort or another.
      I ended up in a contemporary church which had no fear of silence before, during or after worship. If the pastor sensed that God was ‘moving’ and people were still praying and worshipping then we stayed in the quiet moment and let it be; it was beautiful.
      I’ve never really experienced the sort of mega-churches you describe – maybe I’ve had a lucky escape.
      Loving your blog posts x

  • Nancy Pannell

    As always, Christy, you are very insightful. I had begun to notice the same lack of quiet, meditative, prayer time in many churches, whether they were being live-streamed or not, if they embraced a very “contemporary worship style”. I had begun to feel it was more about performance than worship.

    • In a way,it is very much about performance,sadly; the”mega-church”pastors and congregants are literally”preaching to the choir”.

  • ckenweav

    I think one of the reasons for the growth of NONES is organized religions generally have abandon spiritual growth. It should be axiomatic to say spiritual growth involves prayer and meditation to converse with God. I think many of the NONES have become the seekers as in seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened onto you. Over the last 60 years organized religion has lapsed into little more than vacuous ritual.

    • That’s a really good point and I had not associated the “nones” with this growing practice. Thanks for writing.