This article is not the first time I have written about megachurches; it likely won’t be the last. We should all readily acknowledge that there is not a specific size church that God blesses more than others. God is doing a great work in many small, medium, large, and mega-size churches.
The fascination with megachurches is, at least to some extent, related to the sociological impact on the community in which it resides. Outreach magazine, in partnership with LifeWay Research, just released its annual “Largest and Fastest Growing Churches in America” issue. In addition, the magazine includes a fascinating section devoted to megachurches. I have used some of the information throughout this issue in this blog.
Some of the major trends in megachurches I note were mentioned in the past. But others are new. All are fascinating to study and ponder.
Trend #1: Further consolidation of people attending church in megachurches and other large churches.
There continues to be a shift of members and attendees from smaller churches to larger churches, particularly megachurches. While megachurches account for less than one-half of one percent of all churches in American, more than ten percent of church attendance is concentrated in these churches. We see no signs of this consolidation abating. For example, more than 50 percent of church attendees attend the largest 10 percent of churches.
Trend #2: A significant increase in the number of megachurches in America.
In 1970 there were approximately 50 megachurches in America. The number increased to 150 by 1980; 300 by 1990; 600 by 2000; 1,200 by 2005; and 1,600 today. But there has been a noticeable decrease in the rate of growth of the number of megachurches the past seven years, a trend worth watching.
Trend #3: An increased interest in the long-term sustainability of a megachurch.
I noted in an earlier blog post how few churches sustain megachurch attendance levels over a long period. In fact, I listed the ten largest churches in 1969, none of which are in the top ten today. There is a growing interest in legacy churches and the revitalization of former megachurches or declining megachurches. For example, how has Moody Church of Chicago sustained megachurch status longer than any other American church (1876 to present)? Certainly its tie to Moody Bible Institute has been important, but there have been many other churches tied to colleges that have declined or closed.