I recently had the opportunity to visit a full-blown, giant megachurch; I went because I was curious, but also because it happened to be the church of family I was visiting. (I’d been in some very large evangelical churches before – very large by Canadian standards, that is, but not like this super-sized American behemoth). Because I was with family, for privacy reasons, I’m not going to give many more details, except that it was a ‘non-denominational’ church, which apparently had multiple campuses in the region.
The parking lot was like that of a giant mall, with attendents directing people into spaces, wearing bright green safety vests, waving wands like those of air traffic controllers.
Just like in the King of the Hill episode, there really was a second vehicle to take people from where the car was parked up to the front entrance of the worship centre, though not a bus with a loudspeaker, but rather an oversized golf cart type thingy.
There were two buildings on the ‘campus'; one was the size of a high school; that was their old worship building, apparently, now used by teenager Bible study groups in mid-week.
Then there was the bigger building, where worship was now being held, which was the size of a very large sports complex, but which more resembled a large university / college campus building.
It was huge inside. There was a café on the right, with some people still seated at tables there, even though service had already begun (we were slightly late).
Entering the ‘sanctuary’, was akin to entering a giant movie theatre / lecture hall, in terms of the rounded shape of rows of plush seats with bottoms that folded up, though really, it more reminded me of a sports arena, given how big it was. It could hold over a thousand, though it seemed only half full.
The ‘worship team’ was up on stage, and there were three megascreens behind them, simultaneously broadcasting more close-up views of the worship leader. Typical rock music, with uplifted hands, songs about ‘I’ and ‘me’ more than about Christ.
audience congregation clapped at the end of each song, and at the pastor’s announcements, both before and during the ‘sermon’, of just how well certain programs and series were going, sometimes spontaneously, sometimes prompted.
The ‘sermon’ was a typical evangelical application-based, “how to model yourself after Scriptural precedents to improve your life”, citing David vs. Goliath. It was what they wanted to hear, clearly. The pastor mentioned Rick Warren, and how he overcame obstacles in his life, naysayers telling him he couldn’t do what he did, etc.
As I exited the sanctuary on the right, I walked past the café, where they had laid out row upon row of cups of coffee, both regular and iced.
Just before I exited the building, I noticed a huge castle-imagery-sporting wall, apparently for the kids, complete with cut-outs for kids to insert their faces and pretend to be a knight, etc.
There were three places for sheriff’s cars near the front entrance; I later learned that the pastor has three private bodyguards.
Police directed traffic as we left the parking lot, because it was that busy that they deemed it necessary to have extra traffic control.
Overall impressions: it was much as I expected; I was in evangelicalism for many years, and so was familiar with many elements of what I found there, and knew what to expect regarding the rest, from everything I’ve ever read / heard about megachurches. That said, it still was a little bit of a surprise, that megachurches really are quite that big, and that awful. (Even though I knew that.)