Asian, African megachurches overtaking US congregations

According to a recent study, non-US cities have fewer megachurches, but they tend to have much higher average weekly attendance. 

Business Wire
Gateway Southlake sanctuary. Global megachurches are outgrowing those of the US.

While the United States may have started the trend of megachuches, a new study shows that the future of super-size congregations lies abroad.

A survey by the Leadership Network, a Christian nonprofit organization, reveals that the world’s biggest churches are not in the United States, but in Asia and Africa.

For example, the world's largest megachurch, Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea has an attendance of 480,000 people. India is now home to more Christians than at any time in its history.  

According to a list compiled by the Leadership Network, attendance is high in western and eastern Africa, and at least 25 of Africa's megachurches are in Nigeria. Lagos, the capital, ranks second in the world after Seoul, with a combined weekly attendance of 346,500 people. 

“The list is not based on membership, ministry impact, seating capacity, or building size but on actual attendance – adults and children, all services, all physical campuses on an average weekend for the year, not counting anyone twice," wrote Warren Bird of Leadership Network.

While going to megachurches has been a rising trend in other continents, the larger sizes of congregations could however be due to a lack of alternatives for believers, The Washington Post reported.

"Outside the United States, it takes a large amount of charisma and capital to create a megachurch," Scott Thumma, director of the Hartford Institute told the Post. This is because there is more competition among megachurches in the US. "It is harder to be massive here in [the] US." Thumma added, for a variety of reasons.

There is, however, a stark difference between US megachurches and those found abroad. Megachurches abroad are often constructed in densely populated city areas, where they are accessed by foot or public transport, the Post reported, while in the US, megachurches are often in suburban areas and usually accessed by car.  

Thumma expects the trend of megachurches in Asia and Africa to rise. "The spread of the megachurch model will continue in the developing regions of the globe," he said. "I expect the most rapid growth to be in Asian countries as they continue to develop and populations concentrate in massive urban areas from rural communities." 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to