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Business of the Mega Church

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Business of The Mega Church

Colorado Christian University


        Since the time of the New Testament, organization and styles of churches have developed, evolved, and sometimes even fallen away.  The structure and approach to the Christian Church has even lead to political and religious revolutions.  Not all Christians agree on the correct approach and most effective method of the Great Commission found in Matthew 19-20: 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Throughout history, the megachurch has been a place of worship that has taken a very public and large-scale approach to this commission, yet its values and missions are sometimes questioned.  Is the foundation of a megachurch rooted in the Gospel, or is it a mega business under the cloak of Christianity?

Megachurches are primarily categorized by their large attendance of worshipers, typically numbering 2,000 people or greater per week.  They have a strong foundation in the Protestant and Evangelical denominations, and are usually located outside of growing cities.  Currently there are even a few megachurch pastors that have become famous from their nationally televised sermons, such as Pastor Joel Osteen from Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.  (The Association of Religion Data Archives, n.d.)  Modern megachurches have been designed for large congregations, while showcasing amenities to attract outsiders and entertain the masses.  These churches are not limited to only sanctuaries.  Instead, they are built on campuses that contain worship areas along with recreational facilities and business workspaces.  One of today’s modern megachurches, Willow Creek Community Church, in South Barrington, Illinois, has a food court, basketball courts, a football field, martial arts facility, test preparation courses, and even tax specialists at the congregation’s disposal.  To top it off, the church invites celebrity performers to their facilities for concert celebrations.  (The Economist, 2005)

Although called megachurches, these churches are not so mega when it comes to traditional religious symbols.  Megachurches tend to limit their display of religious items such as stained glass windows, elaborate alters, and crosses; with the intention of creating a neutral appearance for the newcomers.  What these churches traditionally display, however, is the union of technology and high energy worship teams to create a concert-like feel at every service.  When it come to the sermons, megachurches deviate from traditional topics, and instead of staying strictly in the scripture, tend to focus on practical issues.  Despite these differences, the mission and intention of megachurches parallel those of a traditional church, in wanting to bring more followers to Jesus Christ. (The Economist, 2005)

These qualities may seem quite modern, but they actually reflect fundamentals found throughout the history of megachurches.  As early as the 19th century, amenities like gymnasiums, bowling allies, and swimming pools were a part of the megachurch campuses.  The original megachurches were founded in Europe, during the Revivalism period.  Protestants were motivated to reach the masses, and were able to do so by forming a new kind of church, referred to as “Temples”.  Here, services were theatrical, and sermons were meant to draw their audience in to the message.  The layout of the sanctuaries often reflected theaters, and demonstrated that the emphasis and center of focus was where the preaching took place.  The structures built to hold 6,000 listeners were designed so that all attention of those attending service would be focused on the preacher.  Even in the earliest of these megachurches, amenities such as Sunday School buildings, preacher’s colleges, annual conferences, orphanages, and alms houses were standard surroundings to these theater-like sanctuaries.  (Eagle, 2015).

The Institutional Church Movement brought megachurches to the United States of America.  Consistent with their European models, these churches were buildings available to attract, convert, and care for masses of people.  These facilities kept the name of Temples, and maintained their ability to seat more than 2,000 people.  The emphasis on preaching held strong, as did their pattern housing more than church services in their buildings.  Congregations rented out their sanctuaries for cultural events and even debates.  They housed colleges, gymnasiums, ball fields, hospitals, “Young People’s Church”, banquet facilities, bowling allies, and swimming pools.  Their intent was to draw in as many people as possible, preach the Gospel, minister to the poor, and maintain a sense of community within their extensive facilities.  (Eagle, 2015).

Even after World War I, when the trend of churches was a formal, Gothic design, these early megachurches maintained their unique style and approach.  The held on to the name of “Temple”, distinguishing themselves from a traditional or catholic church.  Large worship spaces endured, with a goal of enabling all spectators to hear and see the stage.  Contemporary forms of music and communication were signature features of even these early megachurches.  Prayer rooms, broadcast facilities, and social-service venues were even added to these all-inclusive campuses.  In fact, megachurches were responsible for the formation of the YMCA and YWCA.  All these things were done in reflection of the desire of the megachurch: mass evangelism.  The intent from the start was to “reach masses with the Gospel message, save souls, and reverse the moral decay of America.”  (Eagle, 2015).  

When it comes to the way these megachurches conduct business, you could say they resemble a multi-million-dollar corporation.  Due to the size of megachurches, they require a management structure to maintain their continuous growth.  Seeing finance departments, human resource departments, and even satellite locations are becoming the norm for megachurches.  Although these features sound pricey, megachurches have plenty cash flow to take on the extra staff. On average, megachurches net over $6.5 million a year. (CNN 2010).  In fact, about 50% of megachurches spend anywhere between 39% to 52% on staffing cost, with 3.4% of the budget going to the senior pastor’s salary. Some megachurch pastors are making upward of $400,000 salary. (Lee, Shellnutt, Zylstra, & Weber, n.d.)  In the article by The Economist, Jesus, CEO, the author uses the term Pastorpreneur, basically saying that pastors of megachurches have gone beyond the traditional senior pastor roll and stepped into the business world by placing for profit events. (The Economist, 2005)

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