Megachurches must be understood as total environments. By providing programmes for nearly every stage of life, megachurches combine a sense of solidarity with a feeling of dependence. Employing Randall Collins’s theory of interaction ritual chains, this chapter shows that the desire for emotional energy (EE), which is interpreted as the physical manifestation of God’s love, has been embraced by megachurches and is the key to understanding their success. The chapter develops rational choice theory and show how megachurches charge attendees with their next ‘hit’ of EE, which becomes the life-blood of attendees that binds them together in a total environment.
This chapter, with reference to a case study of a major church, considers megachurches in Canada. The small number of large churches in Canada are almost exclusively Protestant and evangelical (about 150 Protestant churches with attendances of over 1,000). While the number of large churches is relatively small, the number of large congregations is growing and attracting growing numbers of participants. The megachurch phenomenon is especially of interest to scholars as religion in Canada continues to transform with ongoing immigration, growing numbers of people who say they have ‘no religion’ and the massive decline among the historic mainline Protestant churches.
In Russia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union where there was no freedom of religion before 1990, megachurches have helped spread evangelical Christianity. Most of these congregations were established in the early 1990s. They are all located in large cities. Most megachurches in Russia are registered with a larger Pentecostal denomination, but they have many daughter churches and function as centres of their own denominations. The founding pastors are generally still the leaders of the congregations. The congregations support music and educational ministries and ministries to people on the margins of society. Contemporary worship styles are the norm and small group meetings are of central importance.
The U.S. religious marketplace is a fluid one marked by significant consumerism among members of churches. People join and leave churches regularly, leaving some churches winners and others losers. Megachurches seem to be among the winners. Evidence points to the emphasis megachurches have placed on flexibility as a strategy the employ in order to be successful. They maintain this flexibility in many aspects of their organisation, from the physical nature and décor of their place of worship, to the number and styles of services, to the nature of the small groups they employ to bring members under the umbrella of the larger church.
African megachurches may be roughly typlogised into four broad subsets: the prosperity, the Healing/Deliverance, the Personal Empowerment and Apostolic Teaching, and the Prophetic-Healing types. These types share two important features among themselves, the enchantment of popular imagination through the production and dissemination of miracles and the sacredness of, and obsession with, numbers. While African megachurches constitute powerful (political) republics of their own, building impression socioeconomic, or sacred, corporations, they are yet to translate their newfound resources into critical political culture and strategies to produce common goods for the entire African society.
This chapter traces the history of megachurches from their roots in the usa. It overviews the significance of Protestant revivalism, paying particular attention to the dynamics behind megachurch growth including seeker-sensitive churches like Willow Creek and Saddleback and their attempt to promote a distinctive church brand to market the faith and expand their ranks. In addition, congregations have grown rapidly because of their promotion of celebrity pastors. Some such pastors promote television fame for personal recognition. Others openly and directly connect their personal image to the prosperity of their churches, leading to one of the most visible megachurch phenomena: the personality-driven growth model.
This chapter offers a typology of megachurches according to their denominational status, number of attendees, location, and theological heritage. Two-thirds are aligned with older denominations, most of the rest with newer Evangelical or Pentecostal-Charismatic denominations. Most megachurches have around 2,000 attendees with less than 5 percent having 10,000 or more. The great majority of megachurches are located in a suburban setting, the largest number found in the American Sunbelt. Theologically, the congregations affiliated with the older denominations follow their tradition theologically. Among the newer megachurches, most follow either a conservative Reformed or a Pentecostal-Charismatic theology.
This chapter overviews some of the familiar criticisms of megachurches and the thinking behind the megachurch movement and church growth strategies. It offers a distinct theological critique of the megachurch and its near-obsession with size and numbers and success – as exemplified by the prosperity gospel. The chapter provides an overview of how and why megachurches are a product of contemporary culture, consumption and marketing. These foundations, so the critique suggests, is at odds very often with true Christian spirituality and the nature of the message of the gospel.
In this publication the contributions made by the individual differences tradition of psychology over the past 50 years to research in religious education are reviewed and assessed. In this context religious education is conceived broadly to embrace what takes place in schools, within religious communities, and within households across the age span. The opening section roots the analysis within the tradition of developmental psychology and the research that flourished in the area of religious development during the 1960s. It is from these foundations that current interest in the individual differences approach emerges. Subsequent sections examine the centrality of the attitudinal dimension of religion, discuss the place of personality in the individual differences tradition, explore sex as a core individual difference in religion, map the correlates, antecedents and consequences of individual differences in religious affect or attitudes, review research into the distinctiveness and effectiveness of church schools and the family in religious nurture, identify the factors that account for individual differences in attitude toward religious diversity, explore the relevance of the individual differences tradition for adult religious education, and explore the implications of the individual differences tradition for biblical hermeneutics and discipleship learning.