Christian Post — The emergence of the megachurch as a model of metropolitan ministry is one of the defining marks of evangelical Christianity in the United States. Megachurches – huge congregations that attract thousands of worshipers – arrived on the scene in the 1970s and quickly became engines of ministry development and energy.
Over the last 40 years, the megachurch has made its presence known, often dominating the Christian landscape within the nation’s metropolitan regions. The megachurch came into dominance at the same time that massive shopping malls became the landmarks of suburban consumer life. Sociologists can easily trace the rise of megachurches within the context of America’s suburban explosion and the development of the technologies and transportation systems that made both the mall and the megachurch possible.
On the international scene, huge congregations can be found in many African nations and in nations such as Brazil, South Korea, and Australia. In London, where the megachurch can trace its roots back in the 19th century to massive urban congregations such as Charles Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, a few modern megachurches can be found. For the most part, however, the suburban evangelical megachurch is an American phenomenon.
Theologically, most megachurches are conservative in orientation, at least in a general sense. In America, a large number of megachurches are associated with the charismatic movement and denominations such as the Assemblies of God. Many are independent, though often loosely associated with other churches. The largest number of megachurches within one denomination is found within the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination.
The emergence of the megachurch was noted by sociologists and church researchers attempting to understand the massive shifts that were taking place in the last decades of the 20th century. Researchers such as Dean M. Kelley of the National Council of Churches traced the decline of the liberal denominations that once constituted the old Protestant “mainline.” This decline was contrasted with remarkable growth among more conservative denominations and churches – a pattern traced in Kelley’s 1973 landmark book, Why Conservative Churches Are Growing. Kelley argued that conservative churches were growing precisely because of their strict doctrine and moral teachings. The early megachurches were the leading edge of the growth among conservative churches, especially in metropolitan and suburban settings.
The megachurches were not without their critics. Theologian David Wells leveled a massive critique of the doctrinal minimalism, methodological pragmatism, and managerial culture of many megachurches. Os Guiness accused the megachurch movement of “flirting with modernity” to a degree that put the Christian identity of the massive congregations at risk.Continue Reading on www.christianpost.com