Megachurches: Large Modern Churches and Their Pastors
Megachurches. This article features a list of the largest megachurches in the United States and the names of their pastors. The article discusses the common characteristics of megachurches as well as the type of people who attend megachurches.
Big Is Always Better, Right?
The Rise of Megachurches in America
I grew up in the rural farm country of Indiana attending Church with my family at a small Quaker (aka Friends) meetinghouse outside the city of Marion. I'll bet we never had more than a hundred people at a typical Sunday morning service. That is quite a contrast to some of the Churches springing up around the country these days. They are called Megachurches. I would like to describe the Evangelical Christian phenomenon of the rise of Megachurches around the United States.
Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois
Who are the pastors of some of the largest megachurches?
- Central Church, Henderson, NV Jud Wilhite 22,000
- Christian Cultural Center, Brooklyn, NY A. R. Bernard 29,000
- First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, FL Mac Brunson 28,000
- Gateway Church, Southlake, TX Robert Morris 20,000
- Greater Allen A. M. E. Cathedral of New York, New York City, NY Floyd H. Flake 23,000
- Lakewood Church, Houston, TX Joel Osteen 44,333
- LifeChurch.TV, Edmond, OK Craig Groeschel 46,000
- New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Lithonia, GA Eddie L. Long 20,000
- Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, TX Jack Graham 31,000
- Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA Rick Warren 20,489
- Second Baptist Church, Houston, TX Ed Young 22,325
- Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KYDave Stone 21,000
- Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, VA Jonathan Falwell 24,000
- West Angeles Cathedral, Los Angeles, CA Charles E. Blake 20,000
- Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, IL Bill Hybels 23,213
What is a Megachurch?
A Megachurch is currently being defined as a Protestant congregation with an average weekly attendance exceeding two thousand and meets several other criteria including the following:
- Strong, charismatic, usually male senior pastor
- Multiple associate pastors
- Large, full-time staff
- Hundreds, even thousands of weekly volunteers
- Theologically conservative
- Multitude of ministries and programs organized and run by volunteers
- Seven day a week activity at the church facility
- Contemporary worship
- State of the art sound and projection systems
- Bookstores, coffee shops
- 30-100 acres of land used for building expansion and parking.
- Usually located in suburban areas of sprawling cities close to major traffic thoroughfares.
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Are there Roman Catholic Churches that are considered megachurches?
There is more to the definition of megachurches than numbers of attenders. Megachurches are known for their strong, charismatic leadership, contemporary worship, many programs, and ministries. There are large Roman Catholic Congregations, but few have crossed over to embrace the characteristics of the Protestant megachurches.
Who attends a megachurch
The average megachurch attender is consumer oriented, middle class, mobile and well educated with a family. Most are spectator/participants as opposed to those engaged in volunteering in the programs of the church.
Are other countries experiencing this phenomenon?
South Korea, Brazil, and Nigeria and some other African nations have megachurches. South Korea has five of the ten largest churches in the world including Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul which has over 800,000 in attendance each Sunday (2007 figure).
Singapore's New Creation Church attracts 33,000 each Sunday. Senior Pastor Joseph Prince serves as a volunteer.
How many megachurches are there in the United States?
There are in excess of 1600 U.S protestant churches with weekly attendance exceeding 2,000. Fifty Churches have 10,000 to 47,000 attending.
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What is the size of the staff of a megachurch?
While most of these Churches have one senior pastor, they usually have between five and twenty-five associate pastors. In addition, they employ a very large full time staff. The average volunteer staff is in the hundreds, but sometimes reaches a thousand or more.
Where are megachurches located?
Seventy-five percent of megachurches are located in the southern sunbelt of the United States with the highest concentrations in California, Texas, Florida and Georgia. Half of those are in the Southeast region
Megachurches also tend to be located on the growing edge of rapidly growing sprawl cities. They are a phenomenon of the suburbs. These Churches locate themselves on 30 to 100 acres of land which is used for building expansion and parking. Normally, there are major traffic thoroughfares nearby. The major cities which are home to these congregations are Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Orlando, Phoenix and Seattle.
Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA Senior Pastor, Rick Warren
What innovative methods are megachurches utilizing?
One innovation is the use of multi site congregations. Instead of having everyone in one large building, the churches using this strategy, have smaller congregations in various places. The services are all connected by video links. Many churches also use television and internet to reach more people.
What do Megachurches believe?
Megachurches are typically Evangelical Christian (see the link for doctrines) Churches with a variety of slightly different leanings. These include Non-denominational, Baptist, Southern Baptist, Assembly of God, Full Gospel, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Church of God in Christ, Christian, Missionary Baptist, Calvary Chapel, Evangelical Covenant, Pentecostal and others.
Are most of these Churches still growing?
Twenty percent of U.S. Churches other than megachurches are experiencing growth. Eighty percent are plateaued or in decline. Seventy-seven percent of the more than 1600 megachurches are growing at a rate of 11% per year.
The pattern with mega Churches is that once the founding pastor leaves, the church begins to decline in numbers. What does this have to say about the future of mega churches? Some Church growth experts are predicting that it is an unsustainable phenomenon.
What do you think?
What do you think of Megachurches? Are they a good thing or not so good? Do you live near a Megachurch? How has it affected your community? Do you think this is all about money and fame, or do you sense that real ministry is taking place? It's your turn now. I look forward to hearing your feedback.
Thanks for reading,
Megachurch Attendance Poll
Would you consider regularly attending a megachurch?
© 2012 Chris Mills