What can we learn from our megachurch neighbors?

Megachurches are here to stay, writes Kate Bowler for Faith and Leadership at Duke Divinity. So we might as well learn to get along with them – and find out what it is we have to offer one another.

While most American churches are populated by around 80 people, Bowler writes, megachurches are defined (locally) as having 2,000 or more regular attendees. Since the year 2000, the number of such congregations in America has risen from 600 to 1,650. And, she says,

We must all come to terms with the fact that this form of congregational life seems to be here to stay. According to sociologist Mark Chaves’ most recent National Congregations Study, an astonishing half of all churchgoers attend the largest 7 percent of congregations. In short, more people — across traditions — are becoming concentrated in fewer churches. Though most of us do not attend a megachurch, more and more of us are finding ourselves living in a megachurch shadow.

Misconceptions about megachurches have proved to be stumbling blocks to good neighborliness. Bowler names a few:

One of the most common misconceptions about megachurches is that they are primarily bastions of the prosperity gospel. …

Another misreading is that these churches are independent, hovering above all denominational cares and concerns. On the contrary, a vast number (some scholars say a majority) of American megachurches belong to denominations. … Mainliners would be pleased to know that there are United Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and United Church of Christ megachurches. …

The world of megaministry has its own rules. …

…They have endless resources, so that small churches can’t compete.

But, Bowler argues that the small church pastor’s keen connection to the needs of individuals and the megachurch pastor’s big dream resources could complement each other, if big and small learned to work together. “We must start by making our peace with the megachurch as our neighbor,” is the invitation at the heart of her essay.

Read Kate Bowler’s essay for Faith and Leadership here. Do you attend a megachurch? A small parish? What have you learned about working together with churches of different sizes and dynamics for the sake of the gospel?

Featured image: By Carol M. Highsmith – Library of Congress Catalog, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons 

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