Brandon Pierce, Contributor
Megachurches are the rock stars of churches. These are religious institutions that have turned themselves into the equivalent of fast food franchises. Many have sprung from almost nothing to have multiple locations spanning states. But what is the appeal of a megachurch and why are they so unbelievably popular? Let’s look inside to find out about this unconventional take on modern religion that is sweeping the nation.
Most of us don’t think of churches as a profitable establishment. We think of churches as being symbols of religion, and while they may raise some money for their obviously necessary expenses, in the end they are not for profit. Most are actually considered non-profit organizations by the Internal Revenue Service. And, yet, according to Forbes, the top ten megachurches in the United States brought in a staggering $8.5 billion in income last year. Is all of that for church expenses or being dispensed back into the community? Well, that is a question for the IRS. But we want to dig a little deeper and see what is so fascinating to Americans about the concept of megachurches.
How do they do it? Well, like all things in life, bigger is better. Megachurches have more funds at their disposal, and that means they are able to turn their church services into a bigger spectacle.
Many feature huge stages, rock star-like musical segments, jumbotron televisions, and facilities that leave church members with more amenities than your average country club. But at the heart of every megachurch is the pastor, and they are always a mover-and-shaker on the religious scene.
Consider Joel Olsteen. This guy is the new rock star of Christianity and holds the keys to the lock of the biggest megachurch in America. His Houston, Texas church has over 40,000 in attendance each week, a number you might expect for a professional sports event. Televised, the reach is much bigger. Joel Olsteen reaches over seven million households each Sunday, and he has managed to grow to these epic proportions in just thirteen years since he took the helm of the church after his father passed away. He is a national presence, with best-selling books and television appearances. The annual budget of Lakewood Church is over $70 million. If you’re in Houston, Texas, it’s hard to not want to be a part of Olsteen’s congregation.
A look at the Lakewood Church’s website has Joel Olsteen everywhere. While his messages might be good, millions tune in to this guy as opposed to going to a local church and establishing a relationship with a real pastor. Is that good or bad? Well, the jury is out. Religion is always a lightning rod for debate, and this is no different. But Joel is a cultural phenomenon. What about those that are members of much smaller megachurches that place their pastor on a pedestal?
It happens. Every Sunday, millions of Americans watch their church service on a television. Only, they are not in the comfort of their own home. They go to commune with their fellow Christians and watch messages preached to them from Jumbotron television screens. Gone is the old principle of church, where the pastor is a confidant and person to rely on. Many members of these megachurches would be lucky if they ever came within 100 yards of their pastor, much less get a private appointment to speak with them.
The train keeps rolling, and megachurches seem to be the new trend in American religion. But is it a good one? Too many of these megachurches leave their congregation idolizing their figureheads . . . and all too often, they go astray, leaving a lot of lost sheep.
At the risk of being long-winded, we’ll leave this topic for now, and if you are interested we can delve further into the concept of megachurches and what happens when they go wrong.
This article first appeared on Common Sense Conspiracy