Megachurches are part of the landscape in a lot of Christendom and have been defined as a Protestant church where average weekend attendance exceeds 2000. How did the phenomenon of megachurches arise? Are they an effect of mass urbanisation? Are they a recent thing (as they seem to be).

Many of them seem to promote prosperity gospel-type beliefs. Is the prevalence of megachurches associated with the rise in popularity of this belief system? Alternatively is the rise of megachurches associated with the increase in attendance of popular music concerts in that they can offer worship in a similar format to a concert?

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    The most obvious precedent which lead to mega churches was congregational (i.e. decentralized) church governance. In denominations with hierarchical governments, the central body can centrally plan the location and size of each local congregation. In congregationally run churches, each individual church can grow to any size based on their popularity in the community. The only limiting factor would be congregations who choose to self-divide or church-plant as an alternative to massive growth. Other than that, it would seem all answers would be opinion-based. Dec 9, 2014 at 15:18
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    @StevenDoggart I think there would be some level of opinion after that, but it would be a tolerable amount and, naturally, answers should use sources and facts to support themselves.
    – user3961
    Dec 9, 2014 at 20:18
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    I perceive that megachurches are only common in westernized countries, particularly the SE USA.
    – user3961
    Dec 9, 2014 at 20:51
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    @fredsbend Korea also has a lot of very large churches. Dec 9, 2014 at 21:49
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    Answerers should note that this isn't quite as new a phenomenon as some are making it sound. Spurgeon had over 5000 in his church in the 19th century.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 10, 2014 at 0:46

2 Answers 2


Reason #1

Mega Churches can likely be explained in part by the fact that more modern denominations, including Baptist (Even non-denominational) have integrated together with each other a lot. People are starting to realize that on a basic level, everybody is teaching the same thing; the love of Christ and desire to be like/with him.

I've asked several people (most not even from my church) and 90 percent admitted to being non-denominational or passive about where they go on Sunday as long as there is a good christian influence and a love of God. This means that in an example town, there will be one huge church and a handfull of smaller ones, rather than tons of same-size-small churches.

Of course this can't completely explain the phenomenon.

Reason #2

Mass urbanization, along with greater ease when it comes to getting places, as you said in your question, is a very likely factor into why churches of such massive sizes have sprung up. My church started in around 2000-2003 and has several thousand attending every weekend!

I'll bet that if you were to make a map of all of the 'Mega Churches' and overlay it on a political map, the churches would line up pretty closely with cities of population from 400k to around 700k.

Reason #3

Acceptance of 'Non-Believers'; Along with the increase of population at churches came the popularization of 'Christian Contemporary' music. It appeals to people who may not necessarily be christian because of its good vibes and heavy beat more closely matching that of 'Normal" music. I know several people who listen to christian pop and admit to not even believing in Jesus Christ.

Churches are also making a greater effort to have effect on their personal community, not just nations across the globe. This encourages those attending the church to reach out to their neighbors though increased fellowship with them.

My pastor said this sunday

America has never been more spiritually minded as today.

Then he said something about it not being christian spirituality necessarily. I've forgotten his exact words.

My point being that the idea of religion has grown in popularity, and simply, christian churches are everywhere, and open for folks to just walk in and here the message. There are a variety of different styles of churches, and people who don't like one style, may like another, so they end up joining a church rather than no church.

I don't claim to know what is happening with these Mega Churches all the way, maybe God has some really big plan for it.

  • Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. Here are some meta posts about this site to help you learn how we do it here: What Christianity.StackExchange is (and more importantly, what it isn't) and How we are different than other sites? I hope to see you post again soon.
    – user3961
    Dec 9, 2014 at 23:56
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    This answer needs more support. It needs sources and citations, if necessary, to support what you are saying. Otherwise, it just looks like your opinion. Please add more to it to make a truly academic answer. Thank you. References: Guidelines for writing effective answers and What is a well-sourced, dispassionate answer?
    – user3961
    Dec 9, 2014 at 23:57
  • Thanks! Do you know of a site that i could use to find maps of all churches over 2000 ppw?
    – ruckus
    Dec 10, 2014 at 0:11
  • No, sorry, I don't. Actually, among the various things your post claims, I doubt that one is true. I would actually expect to see that megachurches are mostly in mid-sized towns in suburban areas.
    – user3961
    Dec 10, 2014 at 1:49
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    I think you missed two important sociological points: greater transport possibilities (it's now feasible to drive 29 miles to go to church) and a greater emphasis on choice - i.e. a tendency to find a church you like, rather than whatever happens to be nearest. Dec 10, 2014 at 21:14

How did the phenomenon of “Megachurches” come about?

We live in an age of increasing collectivization. There are few "mom and pop" stores anymore. Mega stores define our age. It should not be surprising that we find mega churches also thriving.

Are they an effect of mass urbanization?

It might be more accurate to say that they were an effect of mass suburbanization.

As recent as forty years ago people would get into fist-fights over politics or religion. While not necessarily noble, it does reflect a time when many more people felt what was right or true was important. Today such activity seems alien. One of the biggest crimes you can commit today is to make someone feel bad.

Our society has transitioned from truth to comfort. This makes the appeal of market driven churches much greater.

What churches were supposed to do (old way):

Ephesians 4:11-13 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

What many churches have become (new way);

2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

That this is happening now and on such a large scale may have to do with;

2 Thessalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

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    Good answer up to 'What churches were ..." Then you start a bit of a rant. Edit the last part out and it is a +1 answer that explains something I have wondered about. Dec 9, 2014 at 17:16
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    I don't think this answers the question particularly well. Starts out well, but then neglects to name some sources or facts to support your hypothesis and then moves into a sort of personal interpretation, "the end is nigh" kind of thing.
    – user3961
    Dec 9, 2014 at 20:50
  • Perhaps I should have given more of an explanation that as Christianity turned away from Christ to a type of "consumer" Christianity, it should be expected that the marketplace would offer these consumers what they wanted. The mega church is just as much a result of a consumer society as is Walmart. I just thought the 2 Timothy verses were self evident. My use of the word "may" for the 2 Thessalonians verse I thought was sufficient to postulate a possible reason for this phenomena. Robert Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral started in a drive-in movie lot in California.
    – timf
    Dec 10, 2014 at 20:13

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