Megachurch

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The interior of Lakewood Church, the largest church in the United States

A megachurch is a large church characterized by weekly attendance of 2000 people or more, an active congregational community, a large number of outreach and social ministries, and several other criteria. While some Catholic churches may meet the attendance criteria for a megachurch, the term is usually only applied to Protestant churches.[1]

A substantial number of megachurches are non-denominational. Of those that are members of a denomination, the congregation is usually associated with an Evangelical (such as the Southern Baptist Convention) or Pentecostal/Charismatic (such as the Assemblies of God) denomination, as opposed to a mainline denomination such as the United Methodist Church.[2] Frequently, those megachurches that are denominationally-affiliated do not promote their affiliation to as to not dissuade people who oppose that denomination from attending or joining.

A more recent trend is the "multi-site church", where a megachurch has multiple meeting locations. The general practice is for each campus to feature local music, but the main service to be simulcast (or re-broadcast) from the main location.

Specific examples

  • Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas draws 40,000 in weekly attendance. Lakewood Church (a non-denominational Charismatic church) meets in a former stadium equipped with lights and large flatscreen televisions. It manages a multi-million dollar television ministry. The largest church in America, it is also among the best examples of a megachurch.
  • Crystal Cathedral, in Garden Grove, California, was built by a famous architect and is known for its music. It is constructed of thousands of panes of glass, holds nearly 3000 worshippers, and boasts one of the largest pipe organs in the world.[4] Formerly the megachurch led by Robert Schuller, the property was sold and will eventually house the Archdiocese of Orange County, California.
  • Gateway Church in the DFW suburb of Southlake, Texas, which claims nearly 40,000 active members (if accurate, that would place it among the largest individual Christian congregations in America) is an example of both a megachurch and a multi-site church. Gateway holds 27 services at six locations: the 4PM service from the church's main location in Southlake is live, and is simulcast or re-broadcast to five other locations (north Fort Worth, North Richland Hills, Frisco, north Dallas, and Grand Prairie) as well as live-streaming.

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References