My Take on Recent Mega Church Research

Pretty interesting article New Research Offers Portrait of Megachurch Attendees

Here's the highlights
  • Nearly two-thirds of megachurch attenders are under 45 years old, as compared to only one-third for all Protestant churches (62% vs. 35%).
  • Nearly a third of megachurch attenders are single, unmarried persons. In a typical church, singles account for just 10% of the congregation.
  • Megachurch attenders are both more educated and more affluent than attenders at other churches.
  • The majority of megachurch attenders are not necessarily new to Christianity but nearly a quarter had not recently been in another church before coming to a megachurch.
  • While newcomers almost always attend a megachurch at the invitation of family, friends or co-workers, the real attraction tends to be the church’s reputation, worship style and senior pastor.
  • Long-term attendance flows from an appreciation for the church’s music/arts, social and community outreach and adult-oriented programs.
  • 45% of megachurch attenders never volunteer at the church, and 40 percent are not engaged in a small group, the mainstay of megachurch programming.
What do you think: news, not news? - good, bad?

My own take is that a lot of the criticism of mega churches is partially accurate, but only as far as it goes. Most of these critiques, in my opinion, are simply tearing down a straw hoarse, or a caricature. That said, I think critiques that look at the influence of consumerism and individualism on the church, and the mega church specifically, need to be taken seriously.

Part of the reason I look at things this way is because I view "church" as so much more than the Sunday worship experience. Consequently, critiques that focus on the final outcome I find more interesting.

Sure i would want to tweek some elements of your average mega church worship service, make it more holistic and interactive if possible, but on the whole I don't have a big problem with that. It is what is going on the rest of the week that I have questions about, which is a church by church question. Some churches, no matter the style, do a better job than others at reflecting the Kingdom of God. That's not just a mega church issue, that's an all of us issue.

What do I mean by "reflecting the Kingdom of God"? I'm talking abut Jesus values.

Things like this: 16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." - Luke 4:16-20
Being like Jesus, now that's a life long challenge. And I think, the chief way in which we should ask ourseleves if our church is doing all that it can or should be doing.


Anonymous said...

Hi David - your link to MY PICTURES is broken. Just wondered if you knew.

David Baxley said...

As I look at the list I bet we could find similar stats on any church, except the age thing and arts thing. Most church growth occurs with transference; most new people come on invite, most stay of any church for all those reasons of what they like. No surprise about those stats about ANY church.

The age thing was the only thing our of the ordinary for any church, and the singles thing. I think part of that is that they find a different form of community in that setting. They find those to share life with. Church programming does not create community. It is in people finding people and creating community together. The church is the place were they find their common ground from which community is formed.

But the other factor was the music arts/social community. This stuff is usually criticized as creating a consumer driven church but I find that to be an ignorant statement. These things are about a language of communication, and connecting to the heart. That is what many of these large churches do well that are small stand up sit down and teach churches, don't do well. The arts speak a language and break open the heart in a way talking and singing alone can NEVER do. That is power that most churches do not take hold of and hurt themselves in not. That is a power the many mega churches have. Let’s remember that they did not start mega. They GREW. Something most church in America have no concept of, and they are the ones criticizing.

David Best said...

Just to clarify David, not sure if it came through in that post, but I have less and less concern about Mega churches.

I think what is happening behind the scenes at many of them is top notch. However I'm not sure that its always your small churches that are criticizing. In fact a couple of years ago it was Bill Hybels himself who was seriously evaluating how things are done.

In fact I don't think this report is that critical at all, it's just a snap-shot of a group of churches as they really are, great, broken, and all points in between, just as every other group of churches are. I think this kind of information can be invaluable to people making church leadership decisions.