It is an American phenomenon above all. It’s rather frightening. The mega church (or these two words joined together) is a term used to describe a Protestant, Evangelical or Pentecostalist church of more than a couple of thousand worshippers at regular Sunday services. Recent research lists about fifty churches in the USA with more than ten thousand each Sunday, up to forty seven thousand in one case. It is a developing phenomenon in the US and South Korea, where one church has more than 830,000 members. The Roman Catholic Church as a whole, or in the USA, is not considered a mega church because it is not Protestant.
Some mega churches have been known for “cultish” practices, and they generate enormous amounts of money.
Here is a short video about a mega church imported into the US from Australia, led by a thirty-five year old pastor:
Does this bring people to God? Perhaps, but I find it too distasteful. It is as alien to me as its secular archetype – the rock concert. A fix for addicts? I really wonder.
I know what brings me into the presence of the Transcendent:
Perhaps there is room for both, and we should be tolerant about the cultural “vehicles” Christianity uses to win people’s hearts. I have no experience of mega churches, but I have of York Minster!
America is a nation ruled by sentiment. Whether something is true is determined solely by how you feel about it. That’s why opinion polls are so prominent: all they do is ask “How do you feel about X?” and nothing more. The issue of *why* someone “feels” the way they do (or what their reasons are for believing something) is never touched in public discourse. It’s pretty much considered offensive to expect someone to offer intelligible reasons to justify their “feelings” (i.e., their beliefs).
So, if the mega church experience makes someone “feel” closer to God, then it has to be authentic, because that’s just what authenticity is in this country: “feeling” that something is true.
Of course, the same is true of love. As long as you “feel” that you love your spouse, all is well, but as soon as that “feeling” isn’t there, then the love must be gone and it’s time for a divorce.
Just to be clear, I say all this as an American.
Its not necessarily an American phenomenon, it has come to Australia as well , perhaps the numbers attending are slightly lower. An exemple is Hillsong in Sydney. My daughter belongs to a Pentecostal Church, also very large in numbers and used to be a member of the Melbourne City Life Church, which is huge. I have been to some of the services, but I always leave empty, the noise is deafening , the yelling from the stage is annoying and the Holy Communion offered is invalid.But if my daughter and family want to serve the Lord in this way , I am not fighting against it and continue to love them.
Yours in Christ,
Father Ed Bakker
Indeed, I mentioned one mega church being imported into the USA from Australia. I have never been anywhere near those places, but I did look at some videos with the deafening noise and the psychological crowd manipulation. The more humans are manipulated into a bestial mass, the more we see how far down human nature and stupidity can go. It happened in Germany in 1933? It happens at mass rock concerts, political gatherings, protest demonstrations and sports events. Man only achieves beauty and sublimity when a person is alone with God. Crowd behaviour only appeals to the shallowest of emotions and the basest instincts of fallen mankind.
I stay away from cities as much as possible, and above all crowds. I brought up the contrast between mega churches and the beauty of Anglican Evensong. The contrast can also be made with individual persons who make the best of humanity, create, do worthwhile things and experience the gratuity of life.
Of course, one might say that the Anglican Catholic Church is an American import into the U.K.
Yes, indeed, but the issue isn’t importation. I have nothing against Americans or American churches.
Besides, the ACC is hardly a “mega” Church! That’s an understatement… 🙂
It is so a “mega” church, Fr Anthony! You should have seen the number of angels and saints around me at Mass yesterday! In fact, I believe you were there! 🙂
Yes, that’s a way of putting it. Yes, we were at each others’ Mass. That’s what it is all about – the Communion of the whole Church. Easily forgotten!
Fr. Jonathan’s comment, “It is so a mega church” puts me in mind of a poem I wrote a decade ago …
A Hole in Time
Wednesday, May 11, 2005, the feast of St. Monica, at Mass. We have just said the angels’ song, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ . There is a hush. Father pauses, lifts his hands and his eyes toward heaven, and begins the great Prayer of Consecration, “All glory be to thee . . .”. Suddenly I have a sense of the timelessness of what we are doing. I seem to hear not only the words of our Prayer Book, but also ‘Te igitur clementissime Pater…’ and ‘…Holy and all-holy…’ and the many other ways that prayer begins in other places. I seem to see not only our own little New Hampshire church, but also an ancient Saxon chapel, an Irish Culdee praying, a pompous solemn cathedral Mass, a . . .
Time is irrelevant. There is (in the eternal scheme of things) only one Mass, and we are there . . .
A Hole in Time
. . . and hands raise up,
and eyes lift up,
and a voice speaks up,
and a voice speaks up,
and a voice . . .
. . . and a voice, and a voice, and a voice . . .
. . . and in a wattled shrine of Saxon days,
and on a lonely Celtic isle,
and in cathedrals great and granite,
newly built in days gone by,
and in the ancient, aging piles of stone,
that still remain today,
and in a hidden persecuted room,
where faith, attacked, costs dear
and at the altar of His rising up,
where glorious pomp prevails,
and as the trumpet sounds for His return,
while the last of Masses here below is said,
. . . the countless hands lift up,
unnumbered eyes are raised,
and multitudes of voices speak,
a sound like rushing mighty waters flowing,
flowing through the streams of time,
rushing o’er the many rapids
of the clamoring strifes of men,
and in a world with sin’s pollution
the river runs, the voices speak,
and yet are speaking . . .
… voices numberless beyond all counting
(yet the voices are but one),
and hands that lift up,
holding sacred things,
though many, are likewise here but one,
and eyes that now towards heaven are turned,
are one with those that now look down,
for many priests there are, but only one,
and many Masses offered, yet but one,
for at the altar time and space are vanquished,
and here He offers once the one oblation,
and many priests and many altars
there may be,
but here . . .
. . . His hands raise up,
His eyes lift up
His voice speaks up,
and He is here,
and we are there,
and . . .
Thanks, Ed, very much!
You really reinforce the point that Christianity is not about the numbers game: there is a multitude that no-one can count all together in Heaven across the past and the present and the yet-to-come. There are times I’ve recorded “1” in the Attendance register for Mass. Fr Anthony does the same, I’m sure. That’s the trouble with parish registers: they try to force you to count the uncountable!
Yes, this longing for aloneness with God is very much reflected in the service of Evensong and in fact in all our Anglican Catholic Worship.
Yours in Christ,
Father Ed Bakker