Mega church - 1

The mega-churches making mega-bucks

Congregations bigger than a Kanye concert, rock star pastors – it’s church, but not as you know it

Out with organs, choirs, wooden pews, and quiet services --- and in with full bands, big screen TVs, stadium seats, light shows, high-energy preachers, and streaming video. This is the age of the “mega-church”.

While traditional churches are losing members left right and centre, mega-churches – as they’re being called – are growing around the world.

The definition of a mega-church is any Christian church with a congregation of more than 2,000, but they're often a lot bigger –Faith Tabernacle in Nigeria can hold 50,000 people at a time.

Mega-churches offer a whole new way of worshiping. "The plasma screen TVs have replaced crosses, Power Point-like presentations of the words of songs and liturgical practices have replaced the hymnals," one professor told CNN.

In London, a report on the rise of megachurches showed that church attendance is now on the up, despite decline in traditional churchgoers. There are now a number of churches in the city with congregations of around 2,000. Two, Kingsway International Christian Centre and Ruach, have 5,000 people each weekend.


Services are streamed live or recorded and posted on church websites, for followers wherever they may be, one Texas-based US pastor beams his services to seven million people.

And all this is big business. According to CNN, the US mega-churches bring in on average about $6.5 million each year. They sell DVD’s, self-help books and receive big donations from their congregations. Some open ‘franchises’, or new churches, all over the world – promoting themselves in the same way a major brand would.

But for some people this wealth seems excessive. Mega-churches, like any church currently tax exempt – in other words, they don’t have to pay taxes on what they earn. Some people argue this is an unnecessary and unfair government benefit – they’ve got enough money already, a lot of which comes from donations, or from selling products to their congregation.

Lifestyle of the rich and famous (preachers)

Joel Osteen
Joel Osteen is a pastor in Houston

Mega-churches can draw bigger audiences than Kanye and their preachers have a kind of rock star status to match, drawing crowds with their high personality performances.

For many preachers, their lavish lifestyles are a big part of their faith.  Some preach a "prosperity gospel", which teaches that faith will be rewarded with wealth.

The church behind one mega-preacher, Joseph Prince, was forced to deny that he earned an annual salary of $550,000, after his wealth was reported online. His church, the New Creation Church in Singapore, is one of the largest in Asia, with a congregation of 31,000.

Kenneth Copeland, who founded Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM), has a reported estimated wealth of $150 million, his church was one of six investigated by a US Senate committee over their finances.

And Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, the largest megachurch in the country, is said to have given up a $200,000 salary from the church after his earnings from his bestselling book Your Best Life Now started rolling in. “God has blessed me with more money than I could imagine from my books,” he said.

Judging by the stats on how fast mega-churches are growing, criticisms of the flamboyant lifestyles pastors lead doesn't seem to be deterring people from joining the crowd. Perhaps it's because their message is pretty much in line with what young people are hearing everywhere else – get rich, and get famous – with a bit of faith mixed in.

Liked this piece? Check out the rest of Economy Explores: Religion

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Reader Comments

  • WhereAreTheVikings

    What a terrible, terrible shame. Western Civilization nurtured capitalism, and now capitalism is destroying it. And these young people seem to welcome the invasion of their homeland. The media and schools have been very efficient in wiping out all traces of blood and soil.

    • prollawalllynotahumanoid

      Capitalism isn’t the problem. It’s corrupt politicians taking bribes and kickbacks from Globalists and the Chinese.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        Maybe I should have said crony capitalism. Although Italians importing Chinese to make “Italian leather” shoes is not crony capitalism. It is capitalism, pure and simple.

        • prollawalllynotahumanoid

          That would be crony capitalism and globalism combined. They aren’t concerned with the affect their policies have upon their citizens, the health and welfare of their society and culture or their economy. What it isn’t is fair-free trade to further national interests.

          • WhereAreTheVikings

            I’ve always seen them as one and the same, but perhaps they need to be named individually, just to bring home the point.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        But now that travel is so easy and borders are virtually down through H1bs and the like, theoretically you can’t blame capitalists for the pursuit of cheaper labor, although I do heartily blame them not being more patriotic than that. Perhaps the emerging nationalism will force them to voluntarily do what they should have morally been doing all along, and that is employing business practices that preserve their countries and nationalities. The government should be doing everything it can to encourage that, to the extent that small government should do anything but guard the borders and strictly, drastically, limit immigration.

      • Henry Lam

        It is China with its corrupted mindset affecting the world.

        • prollawalllynotahumanoid

          No it is not. Capitalism is the fairest and least corrupt system of all.

          Socialism and communism is based on authoritarianism, coercion and police intimidation. It has and always will be rife with criminality, bribes and kickbacks.

          Corruption can be anywhere but it is the very basis of socialism and communism.

    • Henry Lam

      The government is too weak. They do not understand the mindset of communists and how they educate their people. Those communist people are only loyal to their country and could be dangerous. The immigration law should only accept those who accepted multiculturalism and taught from a democratic education system. This virus events clearly has shown how stupid to take China as a friend.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        The government is not too weak. Just weak-minded about some things.

  • Gabi Rodrigues

    For how many days can a country maximum close their borders to foreigners maximum? Like now, with the virus, everyone is using 30 days. Can it be more?