Sheep for the Fleecing: Megachurches Growing in Number and Size

In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us, "Make us your slaves, but feed us."

They will marvel at us and look on us as gods, because we are ready to endure the freedom which they have found so dreadful and to rule over them- so awful it will seem to them to be free. But we shall tell them that we are Thy servants and rule them in Thy name. So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship. The most painful secrets of their conscience, all, all they will bring to us, and we shall have an answer for all. And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. Too, too well will they know the value of complete submission! And until men know that, they will be unhappy. Fydor Dostoevsky, “THE GRAND INQUISITOR”


A new survey on U.S. Protestant megachurches shows they are among the nation's fastest-growing faith groups, drawing younger people and families with contemporary programming and conservative values. The number of megachurches, defined as having a weekly attendance of at least 2,000, has doubled in five years to 1,210. The megachurches have an estimated combined income of $7.2 billion and draw nearly 4.4 million people to weekly services, according to "Megachurches Today 2005." The study, released Friday, based its findings on 406 surveys from megachurches. It was written by Leadership Network, a nonprofit church-growth consulting firm in Dallas, and the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, which did a similar survey in 2000.

Leadership Network's clients are large churches in the U.S. and Canada looking to grow or maintain growth with new ideas and methods. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research is part of the nondenominational Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. "When you add up all that megachurches are doing from books to video to the networks of connection across the nation, you can't say this phenomena of more than 1,200 megachurches is anything but really one of the most influential factors of American religion at this point in time," said Scott Thumma, researcher for the study and sociology professor at Hartford Seminary. The South has the most share with 49 percent, including Texas with 13 percent. California led the nation with 14 percent but is part of a declining western region with 25 percent, seven percentage points lower than five years ago.