MegaChange: 10 Trends Reshaping the American Megachurch

3. The Growing Ethnic Church

Time magazine recently featured a cover story that cited such a significant growth in the influence of Latino evangelicals that it titled the story, “The Latino Reformation: Inside the New Hispanic Church Transforming Religion in America.” The article featured a story on a Latino megachurch in Chicago, New Life Covenant Church, which in 2000 had just 100 members and today has more than 17,000, making it the largest Assemblies of God church in the country.

Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesús, the pastor of New Life Covenant Church, succeeded his Spanish-speaking father-in-law 14 years ago.

De Jesús sees one of his decisions as strategic to the church’s growth: “We started doing English services to reach third-generation Hispanics who love their culture, but prefer to hear a sermon in English. I started doing that, and the church started growing.”

Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren also saw an opportunity in the Latino emergence several years ago. In the last 10 years he has helped start 35 Spanish-speaking congregations throughout Orange County, Calif., where Saddleback is based.

Black megachurches similarly are on the rise in the United States. In her book The Black Megachurch: Theology, Gender and the Politics of Public Engagement, Tamelyn Tucker-Worgs describes her early encounters with black churches in the D.C. area: “I was simply amazed by the numbers of extremely large black churches that dotted D.C. and its surrounding suburbs. These churches were different from those I had attended back home. … They seemed to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they seemed to have ‘ministries’ that fulfilled every need one could possibly imagine. … The ministers [preach on] relevant topics from one’s love life to one’s pocketbook. … I was surprised to find that the congregations consisted of young people—young families and single people.”

Twenty years ago the majority of black churches were in urban settings. Today, they are just as frequently found in suburban ones.

4. A Team Culture 

Collaboration has become the skill of the age. Many megachurches are no longer simply trying to get people within the church to work together in teams. Now they’re developing what I call teaming cultures.

Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv sees teaming culture as “essential to everything we do to fulfill our mission.”

But do the ingredients of a great ministry team change as churches grow? Are smaller church teams different than megachurch ones? Although LifeChurch.tv has grown from a handful to some 30,000 attendees today, Groeschel says, “The principles of team don’t change based on the size. The only difference now is we are one big team [made up of] many smaller teams.”

Paid megachurch teams today are leaner than they were 10 years ago. And since the recession of 2008, they have learned to accomplish more with less by assigning multiple roles and more efficiently utilizing volunteer teams.

5. Celebrity Pastor or Celebrating the Faithful?

Like many megachurch critics, Wilmer MacNair says in his book, Unraveling the Megachurch: True Faith or False Promises? “The megachurch features a regal pastor who is the church’s head minister and is totally in charge and in control.” However, research shows that the average megachurch pastor, although strong in his leadership gifts, has surrounded himself with a strong team of elders and staff members.

While leading so many people might make celebrity status inevitable, many megachurch pastors are moving the spotlight away from themselves and onto their church’s individual members—often through stories of faith and service, creatively and beautifully told with video and other media. These stories are proving powerfully effective as focal points for nurturing faithfulness and engagement in the entire congregation. 

Robert Crosby
Robert Crosbywww.twitter.com/RCCrosby

Robert Crosby is the co-founder of Teaming Life Conferences and Resources. He trains and consults pastors in creating teaming cultures. Crosby pastored churches in Upstate New York and Boston and conducts Teaming Church and Teaming Family conferences. He is the author of The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon Press) and is a professor of practical theology at Southeastern University (Lakeland, Fla.). His next book, The One Jesus Loves, releases in March 2014 (Nelson Books). Contact him at Robert.TeamingLife@gmail.com
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