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Visit to a ‘megachurch’

22 Feb

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 attendants 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.

The 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.)

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24 Comments

Posted by on February 22, 2015 in America, churchianity, evanjellyfish

 

24 responses to “Visit to a ‘megachurch’

  1. A Man For All Seasons

    February 22, 2015 at 4:51 am

    I swear this is the Church we used to attend. Was there an enclosed pedestrian bridge over the road from the old building to the new one? I actually view this as a pretty solid church, in spite of being a mega church. Hadn’t heard of the pastor having body guards, but there have been incidents that justify some level of security.

     
  2. infowarrior1

    February 22, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Megachurches where the sacral gives way to commercialism and where the spiritual is replaced by the carnal.

    Using carnal means to attract congregants may result in large numbers but not spirit-filled believers.

     
  3. Will S.

    February 22, 2015 at 8:30 am

    @ AMFAS: No such pedestrian bridge, and nowhere near the part of the U.S. where your IP is.

    @ infowarrior1: Exactly.

     
  4. lgrobins

    February 22, 2015 at 8:42 am

    This matches up to my experience exactly. That King of the Hill episode is such a classic, just love it. I cringe at how everyone’s tithing goes to stuff like coffee, iced or not! Think about the money they bring in and how much of it ever gets back out into the community? I imagine the café is convenient for those who need a texting break or just can’t refrain from commenting on blogs. I saw a news headline not long ago that McDonalds is thinking of going into mega churches.

    “…..complete with cut-outs for kids to insert their faces and pretend to be a knight, etc.”
    White knight training? LOL.

    These are community centers, not churches. Audiences, like you said. Clapping after a song infer performance not worship. This stuff blows me away every time.

     
  5. Will S.

    February 22, 2015 at 8:50 am

    @ LGR: ” I imagine the café is convenient for those who need a texting break or just can’t refrain from commenting on blogs.”

    Ha! 🙂

    “I saw a news headline not long ago that McDonalds is thinking of going into mega churches.”

    I could see some big chains getting into them.

    “White knight training? LOL.”

    That’s exactly what I thought! 🙂

    “These are community centers, not churches.”

    Exactly.

     
  6. ballista74

    February 23, 2015 at 4:57 am

    Indeed. This is mostly typical of all the churches now (one of those signs of the perilous times drawing neigh) – beware much of them if you value your soul. They answer to Laodicea – read that description well and you see these spiritual garbage dumps described in the flesh.

    Anyway, this is what you get when you pander to the world instead of honor Christ. You also get many that defend these whoredoms. While I knew much of what I would find, reading one of the Churchian manuals (Warren’s manual on how to profane, cheapen, and deaden the Church) has proved pretty confirming at how screwed up things are these days.

     
  7. infowarrior1

    February 23, 2015 at 5:10 am

    @Will S.

    Even worse is when they wave their hands to the music or clap their hands like little children.

    May god make such kinds extinct.

     
  8. ballista74

    February 23, 2015 at 5:35 am

    Of interest (people who look at my blog closely will notice this on the right margin/gutter):

    Long but well worth it if you want to learn about what the churches have become. In addition, I’m reminded of the book Jim & Casper Go To Church simply because it’s stories and observations of going to different churches. Not sure I’ll ever review it, but it was “interesting”, for the best word I can think of.

     
  9. Will S.

    February 23, 2015 at 9:04 am

    @ ballista74: Evidently there are many who aren’t afraid of being spewed out of Christ’s mouth; they’ve been warned what false churches are like. Too bad for them that they can’t or won’t realize their own are such…

    @ infowarrior1: Hear, hear!

     
  10. Peter Blood

    February 23, 2015 at 11:21 am

    This is church at an inhuman scale–it’s too big. It seems that the scale that these leaders desire (large-scale, which is also a large funding and human resource base to have a breadth of “programs” for everyone) doesn’t work well for what a church is. But dropping the church to a more human scale takes away from what these leaders want.

    Not a mega-church, but a megalomaniac-church.

     
  11. feeriker

    February 23, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    WOW, Will, what an excruciating experience (one that I’m all too familiar with). Your relatives owe you for putting up with that.

    Megachurches: where the sacral gives way to commercialism and where the spiritual is replaced by the carnal.

    Heartily “thirded.”

     
  12. Will S.

    February 23, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    @ PB: Spot on! They’re empire-builders; the bigger their empires, the happier the megalomaniacs are.

    @ feeriker: You know, I didn’t feel any sense of the sacred whatsoever in there. None. I’ve been in huge cathedrals in Europe and North America, felt the sacred in them. Not in there.

     
  13. Eric

    February 24, 2015 at 12:16 am

    I think at a Megachurch, this song would be floating through my mind during the whole service:

     
  14. Will S.

    February 25, 2015 at 12:20 am

    🙂

     
  15. feeriker

    February 25, 2015 at 1:11 am

    You know, I didn’t feel any sense of the sacred whatsoever in there. None. I’ve been in huge cathedrals in Europe and North America, felt the sacred in them. Not in there.

    Yup. Even though most of the great cathedrals of Europe (Notre Dame, Cologne) are now museums rather than active churches, you still are overwhelmed, upon entering them, by that “sacred” feeling because you know what they were designed for and for so long used for. Not today’s North American “megachurches.” Strip their buildings of any outward signs of Christian symbolism and you could be entering a theater or a sports arena for all you would know.

    By the way, the whole “Starbucks at Church” thing is not a new phenomenon, at least not here in the Lower 48. My mother’s megachurch in California’s Silicon Valley started doing that 20 years ago, before Starbucks was even a name, as did several other churches in the area. It’s just become more popular now that churchianity doesn’t even seriously pretend to be anything other than worldliness covered with a thin veneer of fake Christianity.

    By the way, I’m sure that more than one CEO, er, “pastor” of such a “church” has preached a fire-and-brimstone sermon focused on Jesus’s driving the moneychangers out of the Temple – without even a glint of awareness of the irony.

     
  16. Will S.

    February 25, 2015 at 1:33 am

    “Strip their buildings of any outward signs of Christian symbolism and you could be entering a theater or a sports arena for all you would know.”

    Exactly; I noted that it felt just like those…

    “By the way, the whole “Starbucks at Church” thing is not a new phenomenon, at least not here in the Lower 48.”

    Nor here; I encountered it between 2001 and 2002, in western Canada, at an Alliance church I attended for a while. And worst of all, that church charged money for the coffee! Every other church I’ve ever been to, even this megamonstrosity, has covered the cost of coffee from parishioners’ donations, but they expected you to buy, in the Lord’s House, on a Lord’s Day!

     
  17. Will S.

    February 25, 2015 at 1:37 am

    When I lived for a year in upstate NY, at the evangelical church I attended, the pastor once did a blistering sermon on keeping the Lord’s Day. I approached him afterwards and said, “Great sermon! But how does the way the young adults gather at restaurants after service fit in with that? Or the fact we’ve bumped into you at some of such restaurants when we’ve been there? Should we not be patronizing them, based on your text, and what you preached?” He was silent, and shrugged; he literally had no way of rationalizing his and our actions, in light of the text. I was livid.

    When I moved back to Canada, I eventually discovered the Reformed faith, and appreciated their coherence and consistency on matters of Sabbath-observance.

     
  18. Eric

    February 25, 2015 at 1:42 am

    Will & Feeriker:

    Ironically, I was talking to someone the other day about how similar the Starbucks logo looks like a variation of a medallion to Our Lady Star of the Sea. I’ve often wondered about this, because that’s the main Catholic Parish in West suburbs of Seattle (Bremerton/Port Orchard).

     
  19. Will S.

    February 25, 2015 at 1:48 am

    Interesting!

    Evidently, it started out as a twin-tailed mermaid, i.e. the sirens of Greek mythology:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starbucks#Advertising

    It evolved over time into its present form.

     
  20. ballista74

    February 25, 2015 at 2:25 am

    @Eric, WillS interesting indeed. It’s another illustration that tradition and intellectual laziness takes hold to the point that people don’t know what they’re looking at, doing, or observing in the things all around them. To wit, so many don’t know (or forget) the influence of the pagan religions, so there’s so many images and observances out there, even within “Christianity” (that’s a giant Red Pill, to be sure), that it would be hard for the knowledgeable observer to dismiss that most are pagan worshipers or have split allegiance.

     
  21. Will S.

    February 25, 2015 at 7:34 am

    Alas, indeed, ballista74.

     

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