by Warren Bird
Across the world, there are almost 5 million Christian congregations (worship centers) – specifically, 4,738,000 churches according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity’s “Status for Global Mission – 2014” (line 42). In some countries, especially those where Christianity is all but illegal, these gatherings of Christians are almost exclusively house churches in form. Only in some places are Christians allowed join the public square with known and established places to gather. Thus for better or for worse, only in some countries are large open-to-the-public churches free to develop.
Megachurches – those averaging 2,000 or more in weekly worship attendance, adults and children – do exist in several dozen countries (see my list of global megachurches here). Many countries, even giant nations like India, have received minimal research in terms of how churches are growing and multiplying. I look forward to the day when churches worldwide, including larger churches,receive equal study and attention to what has been done in the United States. For now, megachurches in North America have been researched more than those in other countries, and so here’s what we know about large churches in the United States:
Scope and Size
0.5% – While almost 10% of Protestant churchgoers attend a megachurch, these churches represent only about half of one percent of the roughly 320,000 Protestant churches that exist in the United States. For more breakdown by size, see these Hartford Institute for Religion Research FAQs.
1,750 – Current number of megachurches in the United States, according to church lists compiled by Leadership Network.
46 – Amount of the 50 states have a megachurch (not yet in Delaware, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont). Megachurches can be found in Washington DC as well.
Almost all – Number of Protestant denominations that have at least one megachurch from the biggest (Southern Baptists, United Methodists, Evangelical Lutherans, etc.) to smaller denominations (Foursquare, Christian and Missionary Alliance, etc.). Most denominational megachurches hold their denominational affiliation lightly –Saddleback is Southern Baptist, and Life.Church is Evangelical Covenant, for example – and many are nondenominational, such as Lakewood, Willow Creek, North Point and Potter’s House.
92% – I’ve personally visited 46 of the 50 (or 92%) largest-attendance Protestant churches in the United States.
For more facts about megachurches see various reports I’ve authored or co-authored at www.leadnet.org/megachurch.
What megachurch name is longest? What pastor’s name is most common for megachurch leaders? Here is a bunch of fun trivia information on megachurches, correct for 2008, that I published in Outreach magazine.
For more blogs in this “megachurch” series, see also “World’s First Megachurch?”, “Youngest Megachurch Pastor?” , “Megachurch Languages?”, “Biggest Megachurch Sanctuaries?” and “Megachurch Books?”. For international perspectives, see my listing of global megachurches.