Many Evangelical Denominations Have No Megachurches, Survey Finds

Many evangelical church denominations have no megachurches, a new survey finds.

Evangelical leaders participating in the July survey of the National Association of Evangelicals reported that their denomination has few, if any, large churches.

Moreover, "none" was the top answer from evangelical leaders when asked about the role megachurches play in their denominations.

"The numbers show that megachurches are relatively few in America. They make up less than one percent of the total number of congregations," commented Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, in a statement.

"However, they have a disproportionate influence and visibility. They are the leaders to which pastors and other church leaders look for how to do church," he added.

Salvation Army, for instance, has very few large congregations among its 1,329 churches that have 300 to 400 people, said Todd Bassett, former National Commander for the Salvation Army in the United States.

Likewise, Kerry R. Ritts of the Primitive Methodist Church USA said her denomination is small and has no megachurches.

However, larger denominations like the Assemblies of God have quite a few large congregations.

The general superintendent of the denomination, George Wood, said megachurches have "a very important role" in the Assemblies of God.

The top 191 largest churches in the denomination, Wood said, have a combined Sunday attendance of 378,450. In other words, 1.5 percent of Assemblies of God churches account for more than 21.4 percent of the total attendance of all the denomination's churches.

There were mixed opinions about America's megachurches.

Some complimented megachurches for leading the way in leadership and innovation, for financial support of ministries, solid evangelical theology, and especially "church planting" in which large churches start new churches.

But criticism of megachurches included competition with smaller churches for members, self-reliance, and lack of cooperation with other churches.

Joseph Tkach of the Worldwide Church of God said megachurches play no role in his denomination.

"We view them as a modern invention that does not follow the pattern of the early church. And of course, we do not view all of the megachurches as being the same. Some are exceptionally good and some are not," he said.

The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly questionnaire to 100 members of the NAE board of directors that includes heads of evangelical denominations with about 45,000 local churches, executives of para-church organizations and colleges plus a limited number of individual evangelicals who hold at-large seats.

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