As with all general descriptions of social phenomena, any single megachurch will vary in its embodiment of this full set of characteristics. Actually, many megachurches defy easy classification as strictly liberal or conservative in relation to both the diversity of members' beliefs and the programs sponsored. A brochure entitled "A Walk Through the Sanctuary" explains to the uninitiated the significance of these symbols and sacred sanctuary areas while noting for the reader that the church is "built with the feeling of a cross in a modern configuration similar to a cathedral with a contemporary design. Often programs address the physical and psychological well-being of members with health fairs, preventative health clinics, employment support, vocational training, job fairs, various 12-step type recovery groups, and individual counseling services. Big is Beautiful.... Any church in a large, growing community that is practicing the 'Great Commission' cannot keep from growing. There is a discernable general pattern to the way in which religion is organized and expressed across these large congregations. Its modern interior is filled with traditional religious symbols, stained glass windows and "one of the largest European-built organs in the country." Learn more, Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. They are willing to drive past dozens of other congregations, fight to find a parking space, follow the signs to get to the nursery, and worship in a communal setting with five thousand other relatively anonymous persons, just like they do every day of their lives. Worship may be an equally eclectic mix of hymns, jazz, and praise choruses, combined with liturgical readings and charismatic healing sessions. The majority of megachurches are also populated by Caucasians. Personal observation of one senior pastor's interaction with his staff during many crucial decision-making events showed a more authoritative, highly-directive style of leadership than was professed (Thumma 1996a). Three of their five closest nonfamily friends attended the church. Megachurches offer an institutional setting that may be familiar to church shoppers. We embrace historic Christian teachings on all doctrines, emphasizing Jesus Christ's atoning death, salvation through repentance and faith as a work of divine grace, and the authority of the unique, God-inspired Bible. The approach is characterized by a retention of the images of traditional Protestant Christianity. The creation of these large congregations came about, then, as gifted, innovative leaders began to draw masses of persons around them and around their visions of a relevant, lived Christianity. The architectural style and approach must not only convey the message of the movement but also be sensitive and adaptable to the context in which it resides. According to 1992 data, California had the highest concentration of megachurches, followed by Texas, Florida, and Georgia (Thumma 1993a,b). Between sixty and seventy percent of attenders are women. As one Chapel Hill Harvester pastor stated during a call for members, "This church is not for everybody. The explosive growth experienced by these congregations, however, did not begin in earnest until the decade of the eighties (Vaughan 1993:50-51). With few exceptions these large churches draw a predominantly "baby boom" constituency. Saddleback Church has incorporated 27 "daughter churches," while Highland Park Baptist Church had in 1983 over 60 "chapel ministries" (Vaughan 1984:112). This approach is most often seen in Southern Baptist churches and in urban established Mainline and liberal megachurches. Another study of a very large Presbyterian church showed that three quarters of its membership attended weekly and gave nearly 1200 dollars per member annually (Stevenson 1993). Another question which arises in relation to the members of megachurches is from what sources are they being drawn? Unlike many other congregation, however, megachurches often spend much more time attracting those who choose to be committed rather than trying to coerce marginal members to change their minds. Yet at any historical period there were no more than a dozen or so of these massive congregations around the world, none of which matched the functions of megachurches in contemporary society. This need not be expressed in a rigid fundamentalist way, although it is often a faith with a conservative theological orientation. They keep track of giving and attendance, organize members' volunteer interests, and customize form letters to members. For instance, one megachurch minister was quoted as advocating a strong singular authority saying, "A committee run church is a dead church" (Gregory 1994:319). Within this generalized picture, three distinctive subgroups, or ways of expressing the megachurch message, can be identified and are described below as the "nontraditional," the "conventional," and the "composite." At the same time, these structures may not provide the deep, long term relations, within a community of memory that promotes true intimacy (Wuthnow 1994). The paradox is that large churches keep getting larger and smaller at the same time. Few megachurches preach that their members should retreat from the world. No one occupational status dominates megachurch memberships. They are generally near the expanding edges of the city, within easy access from major highways, and quite often in the immediate proximity of other megachurches. Megachurches offer a unique way of being religious in modern society; one that fits the social and religious context of many people. The message has become entertaining which is what makes Joel Osteen’s material sell, that and positivity towards life. A congregation of thousands encompasses many diverse tastes and interests which must be addressed. The rise of hundreds of these large churches in the last several decades implies that this new pattern of congregational life has a particular resonance to and fit with changes in modern American society and culture. You hit a certain size and you can become self-generating. Their success comes as they respond to and fill this need for personal healing (1991:69). Data collected in 1992 revealed over 350 such congregations (Thumma 1993b). This congregation exemplifies this blended approach architecturally, with mixed results (Goldberger 1995:B10). The cumulative effect of the mass gatherings, the giant structures, and the local and national influence which these churches have is to create a powerful symbolic presence of a publicly vital and influential congregation. Megachurches, like all other congregations, must constantly try to reduce their attrition rates. Megachurches in general share most of the above described characteristics. Given the congregation's size, this service cannot be left to "the flow of the spirit," especially if there are multiple services on a Sunday morning. A large number of megachurches are involved in networking with other smaller churches. The most overt characteristic of megachurches is their size, the number of persons attending in a given week. I want to thank Nancy Ammerman, Steven Tipton and R. Stephen Warner for their comments and encouragements. Several megachurch members echoed one woman's comment about her involvement, "I hung around for several years, just resting, before I got involved.". Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996. Various modern technologies such as voice mail, paging services, cellular phones, faxes, and e-mail help make this possible. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. He follows Isaac Hunter, former lead pastor at Summit Church, and Sam Hinn, former pastor of the Gathering Place Worship Center in … This is not to say that very large congregations were absent from the history of the Christian Church (See Vaughan 1993:17-28). With so many churches going dark today, I understand why people aren’t taking their Bibles to church. This church developed an elaborate cell-group system of concentric rings labeled "Fellowship circles," "Friendship circles," and "Kinship circles" to promote intimacy and "build a friendly church." This replica of a sports arena has a center stage platform with stadium seating 360 degrees around. It is this "overnight success" that often defines a megachurch's unique place in the local religious ecology (Eiesland 1995). Which is why they keep growing larger. These networks are often a loose affiliation of egalitarian congregations gathered around one or several outstanding ministries with the intent of sharing information, gathering resources, and linking up with other churches that share a similar vision of ministry. Ten years ago, megachurches were comprised mostly of baby boomers … As a result, the act of choosing functions to define who person are, it provides them with alternative achieved identities. Nearly twenty percent of megachurches are Southern Baptist, while those associated with the Assemblies of God account for another nine percent. The megachurch phenomenon is new. In Atlanta, a similar structure resembling the Houston Astrodome and seating 8000, was recently completed for the World Changers ministry, also an African American congregation. There is much there that is appealing to worshipers, so why make a change now? Another examination of the Vineyard Movement also discovered 38 percent had college or graduate degrees (Perrin 1989:94). Willow Creek is not the only shape this nontraditional approach can take. The architecture of this orientation, "communicates a message - that religion is not a thing apart from daily life" (Goldberger 1995:b1). Cultural differences have made it difficult for others to relate to the traditional church. This system provides the entire membership with a continuous supply of appealing choices that fit their tastes. The first orientation, labeled the "Nontraditional" approach, best characterizes those megachurches which attempt to attract religious "seekers" and the "unchurched." ", Whatever the approach taken by a megachurch, these various congregations each convey the message that what they are about is not "ordinary religion." Many of these religious refugees are finding us. Ideally, they want to seem constantly available for every parishioner. Nearly all current megachurches were founded after 1955. As the leader of his mega-church, the World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga., and with a congregation of about 30,000 members, Dollar is best known for his prosperity-infused theological teachings — and rightly so. For instance, Chapel Hill Harvester used its computer data base to generate personalized birthday cards "from the Senior Minister." Megachurches -- A Symbolic Presence in American Society. Sprawl cities, such as Houston, Orlando, Dallas/Ft. While there may be numerous leadership styles used by megachurch pastors, these styles should be uncovered by observing moments of actual decision making, rather than taking the leadership's word for how they lead or are led. Some churches produce major works of drama such as plays and operas. This form epitomizes religion in the South. One megachurch member astutely commented on this fact. The sermon, probably delivered from a clear plexiglass removable podium, conveys a biblical but practical, non-dogmatic, this-worldly message that also suggests religion should not be separate from daily life. These large churches, by allowing for anonymity and choice, draw some persons to church who never would come otherwise. "Doesn't make any difference." Many mega churches will use more than half of their Sunday service dedicated to the worship, they want to “whip people into an emotional frenzy” (“The rise of the … Call it a "yes board?" They are not a distinctive social reality because they crassly cater to choosy consumers. Saddleback, likewise, has a system that it calls the "baseball diamond strategy" for "moving people from unchurched and uncommitted to become mature believers who fulfill their ministry in...church and their life mission in the world." Credentials ( Greeley 1989 ) in order to identify their appeal bibles are generally optional, Biblical. 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