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Megachurches: History, Business and Values Aligned

Introduction

In the second half of the twentieth century, various new forms of religiosity and types of religious identity appeared in many countries of the world. They, in particular, caused the formation of different, sometimes mutually exclusive concepts describing the state of religion in the modern world. These are secularization and desecularization, privatization and deprivation of religion, indefinite religiosity, faith without affiliation, and others.

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Historical Perspective Discussing the First Megachurch

A megachurch is a church that gathers at least 2 thousand people for Sunday worship. The largest megachurches in the United States attract more than 20 thousand to Sunday services. For example, the North Point Community Church also belongs to such supergiants: its main campus and satellite campuses gather 30 thousand parishioners every Sunday (Gaitho, 2019). It is the largest in Georgia and the third-largest congregation in the United States.

The emergence of megachurches can also be considered a manifestation of a new form of religiosity and new challenges for leaders. These churches have united people from different Protestant (and sometimes not only Protestant) denominations. The first megachurch was formed in the USA due to the growth of individual Protestant evangelical congregations, primarily Baptist and Pentecostal (Northouse, 2018). Its phenomenon was peculiar and multifactorial, as it significantly differed from other modern Protestant churches. It was not just about the prefix “mega,” reflecting the number, and not only about the unification of immigrants from different churches.

This megachurch had a number of qualitative characteristics; it had a different type of connection with its religious organization. It was an adaptation of religiosity to the conditions of a modern metropolis. The megachurch was trying to bring religious life closer to the daily social and cultural life of the inhabitants of the metropolis, to take into account their cultural needs and habits. In fact, new forms of religious culture are being constructed. Considering this phenomenon s from a historical perspective, the first megachurch can be regarded as an incentive for constructing new forms of religious culture.

Business of Megachurches in the Twenty-First Century

In general, the role of a charismatic leader is very significant in the megachurch. As a rule, this is the senior pastor of the church, often its founder. The most dynamic growth in the number of parishioners is observed in churches where their founders still serve. The arrival of a new pastor to replace the founder is often accompanied by a slowdown in the number of followers (Northouse, 2018). It is the senior pastor who controls all the activities of the church. A megachurch is guided by a confident leader who contributes to transforming it into a successful business. Thus, members of the church who are attached to the leader must attend Sunday services. They make regular large donations to church-run programs, which makes such churches a form of business.

Most modern megachurches are arranged on the principle of a shopping and entertainment complex or a business center. From the outside, the megachurch looks like a business center, a shopping mall, or a university campus. By the way, in the megachurch, it is customary to call its church complex a campus. The modern megachurch complex includes huge halls for worship with a stage, a parterre, an amphitheater, and a balcony. As a rule, there is more than one such hall. When a service is held “live” in one hall, this service is broadcast on huge screens in other halls. Worship services are often accompanied by performances of their own rock bands or jazz ensembles.

The similarity with a shopping and entertainment complex is also evident in the fact that the church usually has cafes, shops of church literature, libraries, and specially equipped rooms for children, where, depending on their age, they play with them or conduct Bible lessons while their parents attend church services. In a megachurch complex, there may be household services (for example, dry cleaning), fitness centers, gyms, etc. Often megachurches have their own sports teams. Various programs are offered (joint Bible study, discussion of difficult life situations and ways to resolve them, classes on child-parent relations, and many others), in which parishioners can participate during the out-of-service time.

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Every Sunday, three services are held in megachurches: in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening – so that people can choose a convenient time according to their plans or daily routine. Each service takes place in parallel in two halls. In one hall, the service is conducted by the senior pastor (in case of his absence, the service is conducted by another pastor of the church); in the second half, the same thing is broadcast on the screen (Crowther, 2017). However, huge television screens are installed in the first hall so that what is happening on the stage can be clearly seen by everyone gathered, regardless of where they are sitting. The room for worship is almost like a concert hall. There are no religious paraphernalia on the stage, not even a cross.

The service is accompanied by singing and instrumental music, but this is not the usual choir and organ, but a rock ensemble. Light and smoke effects are used. In the megachurch, instead of the word “hymns,” which is customary for the traditional Protestant church, the secular “songs” is used. In his sermon, the pastor gives numerous examples from everyday life and pop culture. Communion is not celebrated every Sunday. When it is performed, baskets with the elements of communion – bread and wine (and for those who wish – grape juice) – are launched along the rows.

Values Aligned with Biblical Lessons

The Church of Christ lived both in conditions of religious pluralism and in a religiously homogeneous environment. The megachurch phenomenon demonstrates the harmonious coexistence and dialogue between the followers of the church of different religions (Gumusay, 2019). At the same time, the leader promotes the preservation of respect for the freedom of every person and any minority, which are values aligned with biblical lessons.

The megachurch forms a non-burdensome religiosity, and one of its tasks is to attract the non-church, which also corresponds to biblical values. The church strives to be understandable and attractive to the modern non-religious citizen. This applies both to external attributes (a spacious lobby with signs, printed materials about the church, information stands, comfortable chairs, screens in the worship hall, and the opportunity to purchase soft drinks) and to the content of the service (referring to everyday subjects in the sermon).

The megachurch is characterized by active missionary activity, which also coincides with biblical values. Many megachurches are involved in missionary activities in foreign countries. But first of all, the missionary activity of the megachurch is aimed at the residents of the metropolis in which it is located. The constant and steady growth of parishioners is part of the concept of the megachurch; this is its constant goal. The megachurch seeks to attract new people to its community, to bring non-believers and non-believers to the faith. Members of the church tell friends, neighbors, and colleagues about it and invite them to Sunday services. The task of each member of the church is to bring at least one new parishioner. To a certain extent, the very emergence of the megachurch can be associated with the pronounced missionary orientation of evangelical Protestant denominations, with their desire to attract as many people as possible to the church and help them to know God.

Since the megachurch is visited by people from different Christian denominations, it is at the same time characterized by a certain indifference to dogmatic standards. The main importance is attached to personal faith and personal contact with God. From dogmatic positions, the belief in the salvation of people by the martyrdom and resurrection of Jesus Christ comes to the fore. It is this provision that is most often mentioned in Sunday sermons and in liturgical hymns. The rest of the general Christian and general Protestant provisions seem to be implied, while dogmatic differences between different Protestant denominations are not given much importance; they are, as it were, taken out of brackets. Since there are several Sunday services in the megachurch, they are often focused on different age categories, music of different styles can be used in them, the rhetoric of the sermon may differ, and sometimes even theological approaches differ somewhat.

Conclusion

The emergence of a megachurch is an attempt to bring religious and everyday life closer together. The megachurch strives to involve new parishioners in its ranks, seeing them primarily as a consumer and, accordingly, making them an exciting offer. From this fact comes the need for any, not only religious, leaders to adapt spiritual life to the conditions of the metropolis. To successfully carry Christian values to the masses, the leader should respond promptly to the consolidation of social, cultural, and leisure institutions in the urban environment.

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References

Crowther, S. S. (2017). The fruit of the spirit in the context of leadership. Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership, 7(1), 24-34.

Gaitho, P. R. (2019). Influence of religion on leadership styles and leadership. Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, 7(1), 8-11.

Gumusay, A. A. (2019). Embracing religions in moral theories of leadership. Academy of Management Perspectives, 33(3), 292-306.

Holy Bible: New living translation. (2006). Tyndale House.

Northouse, P. G. (2018). Leadership: Theory and practice. SAGE Publications.

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