Still basking in the warm afterglow of Christian Unity Week? Fired by the Vatican’s pioneering “ecumenism of philately”, with its Martin Luther stamp, to strive ever more zealously “that they may all be one”? No? Well, your loss.
This week I’ve a treat in store: enough to tempt even the least ecumaniacal of these my brethren. What, I have been pondering, might our Catholic parishes learn from American Evangelical megachurches?
I won’t comment here on matters of dogma, except to say that on many core matters – the Incarnation, the Trinity, the demonstrable rationality of belief in God – there is often little to quibble over. (Though there is, I might add, much diversity among America’s 1,500 or so megachurches.) On areas of sexual and life ethics, too, there is typically more common ground than with some traditional dialogue partners.
Remember that many of today’s leading Catholic lights – Brandon Vogt, Ulf Ekman, Dawn Eden Goldstein, Scott Hahn, Mark Shea, Doug Beaumont – “came home” via, if not actual megachurches in every case, then the ecclesial and theological milieux in which they flourish.
Before proceeding, we ought to be clear about what a megachurch is exactly.
Numbers, obviously, are one determining factor. Two thousand or more weekly attendees (not necessarily at the same service) is the generally accepted criterion. But size, in itself, prompts a more interesting question. What are these congregations doing that results in such robust figures? (Not only robust, but also growing: 83 per cent of American megachurches reported an increase in attendance between 2009 and 2014.)
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