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- Chapter 15. Religion
- Believers Flock to Bigger, Some Say Better, Churches
Religion performs the key function of providing social solidarity in a society. This type of analysis became the basis of the functionalist perspective in sociology. He explained the existence and persistence of religion on the basis of the necessary function it performed in unifying society. His approach was to determine the meaning of religion in the conduct of life for members of society.
Three key themes concerning religion emerge from his work: the concept of theodicy, the disenchantment of the world, and the Protestant Ethic. They give meaning to why good or innocent people experience misfortune and suffering. Therefore believers must accept that there is a higher divine reason for their suffering and continue to strive to be good. Individuals must struggle in this life to rectify the evils accumulated from previous lives. In particular, he was interested in the development of the modern worldview which he equated with the widespread processes of rationalization : the general tendency of modern institutions and most areas of life to be transformed by the application of technical reason, precise calculation, and rational organization.
Again, central to his interpretivist framework, how people interpreted and saw the world provided the basis for an explanation of the types of social organization they created. In this regard, one of his central questions was to determine why rationalization emerged in the West and not the East. Eastern societies in China, India, and Persia had been in many respects more advanced culturally, scientifically and organizationally than Europe for most of world history, but had not taken the next step towards developing thoroughly modern, rationalized forms of organization and knowledge.
The relationship to religion formed a key part of his answer. One component of rationalization was the process Weber described as the disenchantment of the world , which refers to the elimination of a superstitious or magical relationship to nature and life. Weber noted that many societies prevented processes of rationalization from occurring because of religious interdictions and restrictions against certain types of development.
A contemporary example might be the beliefs concerning the sacredness of human life, which serve to restrict experimenting with human stem cells or genetic manipulation of the human genome. For Weber, disenchantment was one source for the rapid development and power of Western society, but also a source of irretrievable loss. A second component of rationalization, particularly as it applies to the rise of capitalism as a highly rationalized economic system, was the formation of the Protestant Ethic. This will be discussed more fully below. The key point to note here is that Weber makes the argument that a specific ethic or way of life that developed among a few Protestant sects on the basis of religious doctrine or belief, i.
The restrictions that religions had imposed on economic activities and that had prevented them from being pursued in a purely rational, calculative manner, were challenged or subverted by the emergence and spread of new, equally religious, forms of belief and practice. He noted that in modern industrial societies, business leaders and owners of capital, the higher grades of skilled labour, and the most technically and commercially trained personnel were overwhelmingly Protestant.
He also noted the uneven development of capitalism in Europe, and in particular how capitalism developed first in those areas dominated by Protestant sects. As opposed to the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church in which poverty was a virtue and labour simply a means for maintaining the individual and community, the Protestant sects began to see hard, continuous labour as a spiritual end in itself.
Hard labour was firstly an ascetic technique of worldly renunciation and a defense against temptations and distractions: the unclean life, sexual temptations, and religious doubts. Weber argued that the ethic , or way of life, that developed around these beliefs was a key factor in creating the conditions for both the accumulation of capital, as the goal of economic activity, and for the creation of an industrious and disciplined labour force.
It is an element of cultural belief that leads to social change rather than the concrete organization and class struggles of the economic structure. As the impediments toward rationalization were removed, organizations and institutions were restructured on the principle of maximum efficiency and specialization, while older, traditional i. The irony of the Protestant Ethic as one stage in this process is that the rationalization of capitalist business practices and organization of labour eventually dispensed with the religious goals of the ethic.
Phenomenology seeks to describe the way in which all phenomena, including religion, arise as perceptions within the immediate sensorial experience and awareness of individual subjects. Phenomenologists study the ways in which the world, and ourselves within it, first come to presence in experience and only later become separate objects, social structures or selves. Religion is only secondarily a structure, institution, practice, or set of beliefs.
How do humans go from the flux of immediate perception to a religious worldview? For Berger, religion is a particular type of culture Berger In order for humans to survive, the world must be culturally prepared as a world in which things and people have stable meanings. Culture, Berger argues, exists therefore as an artifice that mediates between humans and nature and provides needed stability and predictability in human life.
From the phenomenological point of view, culture enables both the ongoing creation of the world as a stable, objective social reality outside the subject and the simultaneous creation, or interiorization, of social roles and social expectations within the subject. Religion develops because the stability of culture is inherently fragile. Just as the immediate experience of the individual is subject to flux and change, so is the foundation of the ordered, meaningful world of culture. Cultural meanings tend to be fixed and rigid through time, whereas the underlying reality they describe is not.
Events occur that are not explainable. They fall outside the categories and threaten to put the whole cultural framework or nomos into question. Religion comes into existence as a solution to this problem. Religion is able to resolve the threat of instability and terror of anomie by postulating a supernatural agency or cosmological view of the world, which are unaffected by everyday inconstancy and uncertainty. In a religious cosmology the order described by culture is the natural order, that is, it is the way the gods have decided things must be.
Things that occur that cannot be explained in human terms are explained as the products of divine will. Religion is therefore a source of ultimate legitimation because it provides the social order with an unquestionable foundation of legitimacy: the way things are is the will of the gods. From a phenomenological point of view however, the price of this religious solution is a mode of forgetfulness and alienation. For the legitimation effect of religion to work and be plausible, humans must forget that they themselves have created religion.
They must forget that religion is a human accomplishment.
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In The Sacred Canopy, Berger argued that the processes of secularization will eventually erode the plausibility of religious belief. For religion to function as a sacred canopy and ultimate legitimation, it must provide the foundation for a shared belief system. In modern societies however, other types of knowledge and expert systems like science assume greater authority to describe the nature of the world and our role within it. As we will see below in Section Despite the dominant expectation that modern societies were becoming ever more secular, Stark believed that religion was, and would continue to be, an important and influential factor for individuals and society.
Stark notes that church membership and new religious movements have actually increased in the United States as the country modernized. In Europe, where religious participation is relatively low, levels of individual belief nevertheless remain high and participation has not undergone a long-term decline Stark, b. What explanation can be provided for the persistence of religion?
Stark begins with the stipulation that the importance of the supernatural must be recognized when studying religion. Belief in a higher force or power is the feature that distinguishes religions from non-religious beliefs and organizations. Any theory of religion must take this into account.
Stark attempts to answer this question by proposing a number of basic, general rules about humans and their behavior. Rational choice theory states that the most basic human motive is individual self-interest, and that all social activities are a product of rational decision making in which individuals continuously weigh the benefits of choices against their costs Scott, A person who has a choice between two jobs, for example, would weigh the rewards of each one such as higher pay or better benefits against the possible costs of longer work hours or further commutes.
Individuals will on balance choose the course of action that maximizes their rewards and minimizes their costs. In this sense, even seemingly irrational decisions or beliefs can be understood as rational choices from the point of view of the individual decision maker Stark, a. Religious belief in the supernatural may seem irrational from an outside perspective because it involves an orientation to invisible, supernatural powers that affect the everyday material world through unobservable mechanisms.
However, for the religious believer whose worldview is shaped by this assumption, it is completely rational that they would choose to worship and make offerings to these supernatural powers in the hopes of gaining rewards and avoiding wrath or misfortune. Moreover, by participating in religious practice, people also surround themselves with other believers who make the rationality of supernatural choices even more plausible. According to Stark, the rewards people desire most intensely are often scarce or not available at all, such as an end to suffering or eternal life.
Consequently, when such rewards cannot be attained through direct means, humans will create and exchange compensators. These are promises or IOUs of a reward at an unspecified future date, along with an explanation of how they can be acquired. Stark argues that rewards such as these are so monumental and scarce that they can only be provided through a supernatural source. This is why religious belief persists. In other words, a person must believe that a supernatural power exists which is capable of providing this reward in order to rationally believe that it is attainable.
In this sense, religious belief and practice are rational choices humans make to get the most coveted rewards regarding human existence. Religious organizations function to provide compensators for these rewards by claiming to provide access to supernatural powers or deities. For Stark, this is the root of why religion continues to exist in the modern world, and why it will continue to persist. By using a positivist approach, Stark creates a theory where every proposition, including this one, can in principle be tested.
The proposition above could be verified by examining the number of gods and their powers in the religions of small, traditional societies and comparing that to the number of gods worshipped in more established, modern ones. In reality however, many of the propositions are difficult to test because the concepts he uses are hard to measure or compare between religions. How does one empirically quantify the scope of a certain god and compare it to that of an unrelated god from a different religion?
His theory has also been critiqued for having an inherent bias towards monotheistic and particularly Protestant Christian measures of religion Carroll, In other words, he places higher value on measures of religiosity that fit the Protestant model, such as belief and adherence to doctrine, over those that better describe other religions, such as the ritual aspects of Hinduism or Catholicism. His work may then implicitly suggest that Protestants are more religious than the others based on these skewed measures of religiousness.
Feminist theories of religion analyze and critique the ways in which sacred texts and religious practices portray and subordinate—or empower—women, femininity, and female sexuality Zwissler, The crucial insight into religion that forms the basis for feminist research is the gendered nature of religion Erikson, Feminists therefore argue that questions about gender are essential for a meaningful analysis and explanation of religion.
In one line of inquiry, feminist theorists of religion have analyzed the representation of women within sacred religious texts, identifying and critiquing the way women are portrayed. For example, the gender of the deity is an issue for women, particularly in the monotheistic Abrahamic religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism Zwissler, God, within these religious beliefs, is usually understood as male.
The question this raises is whether religion is therefore the direct cause of misogyny —the aversion or distaste for people of the female sex, including belittling, sexual objectification, sexual violence, and discrimination against women—or whether male-dominated religious practices are the product of broader gendered inequalities and societal norms outside of religion Zwissler, ?
A second line of inquiry focuses on why power relationships within religious institutions are typically gendered Erikson, Feminist theorists note that women are frequently prevented from holding positions of power within religious practice. Ministers, imams, rabbis, buddhas, and Brahmin priests are positions within religious hierarchies which have traditionally excluded women. Despite this, cross-culturally women are proportionately more religious than men.
This can be seen as a paradox within feminist religious studies. Placed along two axes see Figure The challenges faced by women are different within each religion, and therefore the strategies women of faith use to change or work within their respective religion may vary. Being an interdisciplinary perspective, feminism brings a diversity of voices into the discussion, illuminating important issues of inequality, oppression, and power imbalance, all of which are of great importance to the study of sociology.
Through analysis of the gender structures within religious practices worldwide, a deeper understanding of how different cultures and traditions function is revealed. The understanding that women frequently do not identify as being oppressed by their religion is an important insight in trying to fully understand the nature of gendered religious practice on a global scale.
Religion has historically been a major impetus to social change. In early Europe, the translation of sacred texts into everyday, non-scholarly language empowered people to shape their religions. Disagreements between religious groups and instances of religious persecution have led to mass resettlement, war, and even genocide.
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To some degree, the modern sovereign state system and international law might be seen as products of the conflict between religious beliefs as these were founded in Europe by the Treaty of Westphalia , which ended the Thirty Years War. As outlined below, Canada is no stranger to religion as an agent of social change.
Nevertheless debate continues in sociology concerning the nature of religion and social change particularly in three areas: secularization, religious diversity, and new religious movements. Secularization refers to the decline of religiosity as a result of the modernization of society. This is a large increase from the , Canadians who claimed no religious affiliation in the Statistics Canada census Statistics Canada, Sociologists suggest that it is important to distinguish between three different types of secularization: societal secularization, organizational secularization, and individual secularization.
The move to ordinate female ministers to reflect the growing gender equality in society or the use of commercial marketing techniques to attract congregations are examples. Individual secularization is the decline in involvement in churches and denominations or the decline in belief and practice of individual members. As we saw earlier in the chapter, the equation of secularization with modernity has been the view of many important sociologists including Marx, Durkheim, and Weber. But in more recent years there has been a growing number of sociologists who question the universality of the process of secularization and propose that contemporary society is going through a period of religious revitalization.
Similarly, Fink and Stark have argued that Americans, at least, actually became more religious as American society modernized. Even in Europe, where church attendance is very low, they suggest that religious practice is stable rather than in long term decline and that people still hold religious beliefs like the belief in God or life after death. However, Canada, like most of Europe, appears to be an exception to the trend of religious resurgence, meaning there has been less of an emergence of new and revived religious groups, as opposed to the U.
Prior to the s Canada was a more religious nation than the United States, now it is much less religious by any standard measure. Rather than a progressive and continuous process of secularization, Bibby argues that there have been three consecutive trends in Canada since the s: secularization, revitalization and polarization. After a period of steady secularization between the s and measured by levels of church attendance , Bibby presents evidence of revitalization in the s including small increases in weekly or monthly attendance for different age groups.
He also notes the four fold increase of non-Christians Muslims, Buddhists, Jews in Canada since the s, the high level of spiritual belief among people who do not attend church, the way that many people retain connections with churches for special occasions, and surveys that report that many would consider attending regularly if organizational or personal factors could be addressed. Since the s, Bibby describes a third trend of polarization, with the public increasingly divided into opposite poles of the highly religious and the non-religious.
Overall it can be said that understanding secularization and desecularization is an essential part of the sociological analysis of religion. Knowing the relationship between modernity and religion provides insight into the complex dynamics of the late modern world and allows sociologists to predict what is to come for religion in the future.
The question is whether secularization necessarily accompanies modernization or whether there is a cyclical process between secularization and religious revivalism. Are secular or non-secular societies the exceptions to the dominant trend of modern society? In other words, in modern societies there is neither a steady one-way process of secularization nor a religious revitalization, but a growing diversity of belief systems and practices. The practice of religion in Canada is ever changing and has recently become increasingly diverse.
- Ziele erreichen: Unterstützung durch Imagination (German Edition).
- 15.1. The Sociological Approach to Religion.
- Vancouver's 'mini-mega' church pastor probes the blessing and curse of his ambition.
Religious diversity can be defined as a condition in which a multiplicity of religions and faiths co-exist in a given society Robinson, Because of religious diversity, many speculate that Canada is turning into a Post-Christian society , in the sense that Christianity has increasingly become just one among many religious beliefs, including the beliefs of a large number of people who claim no religion.
For those who report having a Christian heritage, only a minority can articulate the basic elements of Christian doctrine or read the bible on a regular basis. To an ever greater extent, Christianity no longer provides the basic moral foundation for Canadian values and practices. Canada appears to moving towards a much more religiously plural society. This is not without its problems however. Religious diversity in Canada has accelerated in the last twenty years due to globalization and immigration. There were only a handful of members from the other main world religions.
Other religions during this time such as Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus only made up a negligible percentage of the population. With the opening up of immigration to non-Europeans in the s, this began to change. In the 21st century, religion in Canada has become increasingly diverse. Including the various Protestant denominations Statistics Canada surveyed 80 different religious groups in Canada in Statistics Canada, Religious diversity does not only include the increased number of people who participate in non-Christian religions.
During its first appearance, approximately four percent of the population in Canada identified as religiously unaffiliated. By , that number had increased nearly a quarter, rising to about 24 percent Pew Research Center, Canadians have had varying responses to religious diversity. On an individual level, while many accept religious beliefs other than their own, others do not.
Individuals are either open to embracing these differences or intolerant of the varying viewpoints surrounding them. Wuthnow describes three types of individual response to religious diversity. Firstly there are those who fully embrace the religious practices of others, to the point of creating hybrid beliefs and practices. Christians might practice yoga or Eastern meditation techniques, for example. Secondly, there are those who tolerate other religions or accept the value of other religious beliefs while maintaining religious distinctions intact.
This can manifest in the range of negative individual responses to Muslim women who wear a hijab or headscarf for example. On a societal level, there are three main types of social response to religious diversity: exclusion, assimilation and pluralism. Exclusion occurs when the majority population does not accept varying or non-traditional beliefs, and therefore believe that other religions should be denied entry into their society. The exclusionary response tends to happen when a society that identifies with a previously homogeneous faith community is confronted with the spread of religious diversity.
On the other hand, the Canadian policy towards Jews was exclusionary until relatively recently. Universities like McGill and the University of Toronto had quota systems that restricted the number of Jewish students until the s. Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in the s were brutally turned away by Canadian officials. A step beyond exclusion is assimilation. An example of assimilation in Canada is the history of Aboriginal spiritual practices like the sun dance, spirit dance and sweat lodge ceremonies.
Between and midth century these practices were outlawed and suppressed by both the Canadian state and Church organizations. They were seen as counter to the project of assimilating First Nations people into Christian European society and a settled, agricultural way of life Waldram, Herring and Young, In and , first a pass system and then an outright ban on leaving reserves were imposed on Plains Indian people to prevent them from congregating for Sun Dances, where they sought to honour the Great Spirit and renew their communities.
The most accommodating response to religious diversity is pluralism. Pluralism is the idea that every religious practice is welcome in a society regardless of how divergent its beliefs or social norms are. This response leads to a society in which religious diversity is fully accepted Berry, Today pluralism is the official response to religious diversity in Canada and has been institutionalized through the establishment of Multicultural policy and the constitutional protections of religious freedoms.
However, some thorny issues remain when the values of different religious groups clash with each other or with the secular laws of the criminal code. The right to follow Sharia law for Muslims, the right to have several wives for Mormons, the right to carry ceremonial daggers to school for Sikhs, the right to refuse to marry homosexual couples for Christian Fundamentalists, are all issues that pit fundamental religious freedoms against a unified sovereign law that applies to all equally. The acceptance of religious diversity in the pluralistic model is not without its problems.
For example, one pluralistic strategy for managing the diversity of beliefs has been to regard religious practice as a purely private matter. In order to avoid privileging one religious belief system over another in the public sphere, e. All religious faiths and practices are equal, included and accommodated as long as they remain private.
In the guise of implementing pluralism, the attempt to secularize the public sphere artificially restricts it Connelly, Religious freedom and diversity keeps the religious life of Canadians interesting. The full acceptance of religious differences may take some time, however studies show that Canadians are moving in this direction.
The evidence is that as people become more exposed to religious diversity and interact with people of other religions more frequently, they become more accepting of beliefs and practices that diverge from their own Dawson and Thiessen, While veiling continues to be practiced by Muslim women, and is more often associated with Islam than with other religious traditions, the practice of veiling has been integral to all three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Christian and Jewish women wear headscarves as a cultural practice or commitment to modesty or piety, particularly in religious sects and cultural traditions like the Amish or Hutterites for example.
Today, we know the hijab to be worn as a headscarf covering the whole head and neck, while leaving the face uncovered. The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear and is worn accompanying the hijab. The burka is a one-piece loose fitting garment that covers the head, the face and entire body, leaving a mesh screen to see through. There is a popular belief among Muslims and non-Muslims alike that Islam dictates veiling upon Muslim women.
Furthermore, there is a parallel belief among both Muslims and non-Muslims that the prescription of veiling is stated clearly in the Koran, the Holy Book of Islam. As to the question of whether or not it is obligatory for women to wear hijab, the Koran states that women should cover their bosoms and wear long clothing, but does not specifically say that they need to cover their faces or hair Koran, But the best garment is the garment of righteousness. The hijab as we know it today, is not mentioned specifically in the Koran.
The prophet Mohammed was once asked by a woman if it was okay for women to go to prayers without their veils. Critics of the veiling tradition argue that women do not wear the veil by choice, but are forced to cover their heads and bodies. Purdah is part of the Pushtunwali or customary law in which women are regarded as the property of men. It is significant that following the Iranian revolution in and the seizing of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban in , the new Islamist governments forced unveiled women to wear the hijab in Iran and the burqa in Afghanistan as one of the first policies enacted to signal the Islamization of cultural practices.
Muslim women who choose to wear coverings are seen as oppressed and without a voice. However, Muslim women choose to wear the hijab or other coverings for a variety of reasons. Many daughters of Muslim immigrants in the West contend that they choose to wear the veil as a symbol of devotion, piety, religious identity and self-expression.
Zayzafoon, Through their interpretation of the Koran, they believe that God has instructed them to do so as a means of fulfilling His commandment for modesty, while others wear it as a fashion statement. Furthermore, studies have shown that for some women, the hijab raises self-esteem and is used as form of autonomy. Some Muslim women do not perceive the hijab to be obligatory to their faith, while others wear the hijab as a means of visibly expressing their Muslim identity. Unfortunately this association has also occasionally resulted in the violent assaults of Muslim women wearing hijab.
By making assumptions about the reasons women have for veiling, the freedom of these women to wear what they feel is appropriate and comfortable is taken away. Most people view the hijab as cultural or religious, but for some, it carries political overtones. Muslim women who wear the hijab to communicate their political and social alliance with their birth country do so by challenging the prejudices of the Western world. Wearing hijab is also used as a tool to protest Western feminist movements which present hijab-wearing women as oppressed or silenced.
Although the principles of modesty are distinctly outlined in the Koran, some Muslim women perceive the wearing of the headscarf as a cultural interpretation of these scriptures, and choose to shift their focus internally to build a deeper spiritual relationship with God. While wearing hijab granted women in the past to engage outside the home without bringing attention to them, the headscarf in modern Western society has an adverse effect by attracting more attention to them which ultimately contradicts the hijabs original purpose. Despite the assumptions of secularization theory and some of the early classical sociologists that religion is a static phenomenon associated with fixed or traditional beliefs and lifestyles, it is clear that the relationship of believers to their religions does change through time.
We discussed the emergence of the New Religious Movements or cults above for example. Especially in the s and s, cults represented particularly intense forms of religious experimentation that spoke to widespread feelings of dissatisfaction with materialism, militarism and conventional religiosity. They were essentially new religious social forms. Below we will examine the rise of fundamentalism as another new religious social form that responds to issues of globalization and social diversity.
Sociologists note that the decline in conventional religious observance in Canada, Europe and elsewhere has not necessarily entailed a loss of religious or spiritual practices and beliefs per se Dawson and Thiessen, Secondly, the orientation to these beliefs and practices has also changed. New Age spirituality — the various forms and practices of spiritual inner-exploration that draw on non-Western traditions e. Dawson has characterized this new religious sensibility in terms of six key characteristics:. At the same time, the basic questions of fate, suffering, illness, transformation and meaning have not been satisfactorily answered by science or other secular institutions, which creates a continued demand for religious or spiritual solutions.
With the above stereotypes, it is easy to overlook the beliefs, rituals, and origins of Rastafarianism as a religion. Through the popularization of reggae music and artists like Bob Marley, the style of Rastafarianism has globalized though many do not know there is more to the movement than the outward appearance of its members. Today, most followers of Rastafarianism are in Jamaica, although smaller populations can be found in several countries including Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, Ethiopia and Israel.
He said that a King would soon be crowned to liberate black people from the oppression caused by slavery. This was an event with more than just political significance. Many black Jamaicans regarded the coronation of Ras Tafari Makonnen as the inauguration of a new era of spiritual redemption for dispossessed Africans after centuries of colonization, cruelty, oppression and slavery.
With the fall of Babylon, Rastas believed there would be a reversal in slavery-based social hierarchy. Black people would then take their place as spiritual and political leaders the way God Jah intended them too. One of the central religious beliefs of Rastafarians is that the Christian Bible describes the history of the African race Waters, In the prophecy of Zion, Rastas strive to return to Zion to leave the oppressive, exploitative, materialistic western world of Babylon where they will attain a life of heaven on earth, a place of unity, peace, and freedom.
However, like many of the spiritual movements of late modernity, Rastafarianism does not emphasize doctrine, church attendance, or being a member of a congregation. There are several key sacraments or religious rituals that Rasta practice to achieve this direct experience. Groundation Day is celebrated on April 21st to remember the day that Haile Selassie 1 sacred Ethiopian emperor visited Jamaica.
On this day Rastafarians chant, pray, feast, and create music as celebration. Achieving higher consciousness through ritual means enables participants in reasoning sessions to re-evaluate their positions, overcome the confines of their false sense of self or ego , and reach higher truths through consensus. Smoking Cannabis Ganja also plays an important role in many Rastafarian rituals, although it is not mandatory. Cannabis use is considered sacred and is usually accompanied with biblical study and meditation.
The custom of wearing dreadlocks — long, uncombed locks of hair — also has religious significance to Rastafarians Stanton, Ramsamy, Seybolt, and Elliot, Dreadlocks dreads have political significance as a protest against Babylon because they symbolize the natural, non-industrial lifestyle of the Rastas Fisher, Dreadlocks also have several spiritual meanings. They conform to the style worn by traditional Ethiopian warriors and priests and thus represent the power of their African ancestors. But churches of every size have something to bring to the mix.
You did that really well in this post. I work with small churches every day and there are plenty more scary stories about things gone wrong in these, than you will ever hear about from Mega-churches. Which is scarier — the sins of Mega-churches that you know about, or the sins of small churches that you will never hear about? After reading what I just wrote, I sound angry lol. The megachurches must be doing something right in their evangelical outreaches or in their sermons.
Chapter 15. Religion
Slamming them will never help your own congregation grow. My church has a saying, that we must grow larger and smaller at the same time. I lovingly disagree. How did the church initially grow? They occasionally had large gatherings but they had small intimate settings. I have supported the MegaChurch format in very limited circumstances when a.
When people are not coming for one teacher and they realize that the small group leader is their true pastor. Regardless of what the writer of this article says…. To use an analogy, this is why many people prefer States Rights over a strong federal govt. When something is being done wrong at the fed…. I can get ahold of my state senator today if I wanted to though. The MegaChurch is what is wrong with the American Church. There are a wide variety of churches of all different sizes doing remarkable work out there.
Also, in many mega-churches today, the trend is multiple pastors, and the ones I recommend all have vibrant small groups which are really the core of the church. We are emotional and reactive typically Phil Robertson. Here is why I felt led to write a response: The American Church needs alot of adjustments i.
As a whole, your article seems to cover for them. The only way I see things changing is a small church revolution. All of those issues are just as present in plenty of small ones as well. Keep it up, and others can do the same with the big ones. Thanks for commenting!
Great post Phil! I am going to repost it on Facebook. I understand what Tony is raising up, but I totally agree with you that you can find the same exact type of problems in house churches or small churches as megachurches. I have had this happen multiple times too where I speak to someone who is critical of megachurches and ask them about conversion and evangelism in their own church.
I am all for churches of all sizes. There are great house churches and great megachurches and stinky house churches and stinky megachurches. The bigger question is whether disciples are being made, and new life and healthy growth to the best we can measure it. I am writing this not being part of a megachurch but a medium sized church, so this is not a defensive email from a megachurch person.
Thanks for this discussion! Great points Dan. Thanks for the comment! Of course a lot of material comes from these leaders! I AM jealous! Friction between Praise and its neighborhood recently came to a head when the church backed an affordable apartment development in the area. While neighbors fought the housing project, in which many Praise Tabernacle members had planned to live, councilmembers worried privately over rumors that Praise was some kind of cult. In the end, councilmembers honored the neighborhood's request and sank the project.
Dana Carson of Praise Tabernacle. Many megachurches, just like many churches, are centered around a dynamic leader. But there's something naturally suspect when a minister directs the spiritual lives of say, 15, parishioners rather than the usual It's just a numbers thing, say megachurchers. Meanwhile, leaders like Praise's Carson don't help matters much when they play themselves up.
Carson's framed visage graces more walls around Praise than the Marlboro Man does along the highway, but Carson doesn't apologize for his leadership style. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. Some suspect that Dr. Ger- ald Mann had a vision of Austin's church growth years ahead of his colleagues. Mann, senior pastor of the 5,member Riverbend Church in northwest Austin, has been a minister in Austin for over 25 years, though not always of large congregations.
In fact, Mann left the small congregation of University Baptist Church in to found Riverbend in a schoolhouse on donated land. Riverbend's doctrine is distinctly to the left of most non-denominational churches. Mann says his target audience is "believers who don't go to church," people he calls the 4Bs: "the bruised, the battered, the broken, and the bored. When it is finished next Spring, the new Christian Faith Center will seat 5, But while the de-iconizing of megachurch buildings like the Christian Faith Center can leave them with all the charm of a fast food joint, Riverbend's feel is more Hill Country spa.
Rolling green vistas stretching beyond limestone-framed windows suggest that God's handiwork is appreciated best when unimpeded by architectural interpretation. In light-flooded chambers of rugged timber-and-stone simplicity, Riverbend provides an environment perfectly suited to the comfort level of its upscale flock. Jesus Christ? You can forget that," admits Riverbend convert Don Fehd, who started attending after a year break from religion. And Fehd's family, including two teenagers, have all found some kind of activity or a group at the church that keeps them coming back.
Wherein lies the genius of Riverbend. Offering more plug-in opportunities than any other church in town, the litany of free self-help classes, support groups, step programs, day care, physical fitness classes, and every imaginable slant on Bible study from historical to personal growth, makes it virtually impossible for the seeker not to find what he or she is looking for at Riverbend. A legendary singles program boasting thousands of participants draws non-church members from all over the city.
Such crossover appeal to other churches' congregations is the reason Riverbend is likely to continue growing. Mann holds to the basic tenet of megachurching -- that if a church doesn't grow, it shrinks. And he points out that, when adjusted for population base, Riverbend is already as large as Saddleback Valley in San Diego and Willow Creek outside Chicago. It's not that I prefer a big church to a small church," explains one newcomer to Great Hills Baptist Church -- it's the message of moral conservatism that keeps her coming back.
One of the givens of the megachurch movement is that late-Nineties seekers come craving structure -- and strict guidelines for their lives. Megachurch leaders argue that their pews are filling up with a culture hungry for a religious backbone. Baby boomers come seeking guidance for raising children, twenty-somethings come to find mates away from an increasingly amoral culture, and a wave of teenagers in want of an ethical framework either drag their parents along or show up without them. And Great Hills gives the people what they want. Aligned with the ultra-conservative Southern Baptist Convention, Great Hills manages to pack its Sunday services without encouraging parishioners, such as those at Riverbend, to "choose their own concept of God.
Believers Flock to Bigger, Some Say Better, Churches
But Great Hills also knows that it is warm bodies who put the fund in fundamentalism, so the church has mastered the art of candy coating the hard sell without compromising its message. Lambert calls it "event evangelism," but to the unschooled masses it's plain entertainment. One example is the Great Hills "House Party" -- essentially the Lollapalooza of "Praise rock" -- which sells out weeks in advance to 3, teens who are no doubt as eager to experience the sheer magnitude of a concert showcase as their heathenistic peers.
But teens at the House Party get something extra for their ticket price: Christian motivational speakers between acts. Another performance spectacle that practically the whole city shows up for is the Great Hills Christmas pageant, which Rev. Great Hills has lifted not only the more garish outreach ploys from the megachurch movement, but also some of the movement's more subtle tactics. The sheer expanse of the Great Hills sanctuary distracts from the fact that it is almost entirely without Christian symbology.
No stained glass or even windows distract from the focal point, a large stage where a piece orchestra and member choir perform every Sunday. So, as tightly as Great Hills cleaves to the bosom of Southern Baptist orthodoxy, Lambert readily acknowledges that other churches in town are far more "traditional" than Great Hills.
But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens How much less this temple I have built! In fact, if flashy shows are the way to pack them in, then the congregations of Hyde Park Baptist Church and St.
Louis Catholic Church are truly miracles, both boasting over 10, members apiece with what are essentially traditional ministries. The Baptist "three-hymns-two-prayers-and-a-sermon" standard has successfully busted the seams on four Hyde Park sanctuaries since its founding in , the latest being a 2,seater completed way back in Sheer size dictates that Hyde Park install a state of the art sound system, but that's about all the flash Sunday service offers. Hyde Park's outreach is also by-the-book Baptist -- Bible studies, choir, and foreign missionary work are the core of plug-in opportunities for members.
Praise Tabernacle offers computer classes along with a host of other ways to plug in to church life. Hemmed in at its Speedway site by the Hyde Park neighborhood, the church expanded its recreational facilities to the Quarries -- 56 acres northwest of US at Mopac -- successfully banking on the old-fashioned appeal of working up a sweat in the out of doors. The popularity of the Quarries, with its many sports fields, already has surrounding neighborhoods wringing their hands over what Hyde Park Baptist may do in the future that would bring in more people and traffic to the area.
And although the chairman of Hyde Park's long-range planning committee, Bob Livermore, says Hyde Park Baptist has no immediate plans to build a mega-size sanctuary on the site, the fact that the church already offers four Sunday services suggests that it may be time to expand again soon. The church has already "planted" 10 seed churches around town as overflow from its congregation.
So, if entertainment value isn't packing them in at Hyde Park, what accounts for the constant growth? Father Larry Covington of St. In Protestant territory like Texas, some may be surprised to find a Catholic church with such a large congregation -- and St. Louis does it without even trying. Louis is struggling to serve its growing church family in its current 1,seat sanctuary which, unlike most megachurches, is decked out with all the ornate accoutrements of the Catholic faith.
In fact, the church doesn't seem to want to follow in the megachurch footsteps at all, if it can help it. Father Larry admits he plans to build a 2,seat sanctuary out of necessity, but he doesn't want to get much larger -- even if the congregation demands it.