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.
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.
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)
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.
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.