More on US Megachurches

Happy Sunday!  In honor (honour) of the sabbath, a few links further to the discussion of US Megachurches and their differences from churches in the UK (and from more mainline churches in the US perhaps as well):

A scholarly work (from Scott Thumma, PhD) in which it is argued that:

  • “If there is a common message shared by all megachurches, it is that they want to portray what they do as more vital than other congregations, somehow better than “ordinary” Christianity.”

If there is one take-home message from my personal experiences with the American megachurches it would be this one, and it’s from this attitude that I derive my distaste. Perhaps my comments about the church in the US and UK are quite specific to megachurches vs quite traditional C of E practices, as was pointed out, although I would argue that many smaller protestant churches in the US are now emulating the megachurches (especially with drama, praise songs and support groups).

The Christian Science Monitor also comments on the rise of the American megachurch. Noted both here and in the Economist article I linked to previously is the issue of the missing cross, which is one of my major problems with the phenomenon as a whole: the underpinnings of Christianity are getting lost in the shuffle.  I have no doubts that in any church, anywhere on the globe, there are Christians with pure hearts and solid faith and I am not trying to argue that all that are involved with this phenomenon are corrupt in some way.  But the fact that the megachurches are non-denominational–or effectively too large to be dominated by any traditional parish church structure–means that they are free to move away from doctrine at will.

I have two other serious qualms with the modern megachurch movement.  One is with the taking on of a capitalist business model.  One of the links from the previous post was to a website called “” and I think if we have gotten to that point of the business model, then it’s time to take away the special tax status of churches in the US and treat them like any other business.  They really become not that different than medical insurance companies in the strange grey area between being for-profit and not-for-profit.  The other qualm I have is with the political involvement of churches in the US.  Apparently again this has some bearing on a church’s tax status as is seen in recent news reports (here, here).  I had not realized the convergence of these two issues onto American tax law until I started digging around on the web for links for this post!

One response to “More on US Megachurches

  1. NFAH,
    I have attended a couple of these megachurches. One locally and one in Atlanta whilst (ha) on business. The First Baptist Church in Atlanta was as large as a mall. It has about 12,000 members, a book store and a concourse that should have had cell phone kiosks in it. Even still, I was amazed at the number of people that approached me, somehow knowing I was a visitor (maybe my gaping mouth and wide eyes gave it away). I sat near the front so it would feel more intimate. The sermon was inspiring. I left there knowing I had been to church.
    The local megachurch I attended was much less inviting. Oh, the people were nice. The sermon however, was lacking.
    I grew up in a small (120 avg. attendance on Sunday morning) Baptist church. It is still there. Many of the members I knew as a child is still there. The preacher just isn’t my favorite.
    So many of the local churches we have visited of various denominations, all seem to be wrapped up in this whole “We are here for you, our congregation”. Not “we have gathered here today in The House of the Lord to give thanks and to praise His Holy Name!”
    We have even been approached with tithing envelopes after just two visits to one of the churches. Tithing was unheard of in our church when I was young. You gave what you could when you could and a “love offering” was taken up on Sunday night for the preacher (no dental plan, no housing allowance or even a church van to drive around).
    It really can be disheartening trying to go to church expecting to be both religiously enlightened and spiritually lifted only to come out after 10 separate new age “Christian” songs and a 30 minute timed message feeling like you missed something.
    How does the Church and religion as a whole stack up in England?

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