A megachurch is defined by the Hartford Institute as any Protestant Christian church having 2,000 or more people in average weekend attendance. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term, first documented in 1984, as a church with an unusually large membership, especially one preaching a conservative or evangelical form of Christianity and also offering a variety of educational and social activities.
The concept originated in the mid 19th century, continued into the mid 20th century as a low-key phenomenon, and expanded rapidly through the 1980s and 1990s; it is widely seen across the US in the early 21st century.
The origins of the megachurch movement, with a large number of local congregants who return on a weekly basis can be traced to the 1800s. There were large churches earlier in history, but they were considerably rarer. Examples include Charles Spurgeon's Baptist Metropolitan Tabernacle in London which attracted 5,000 weekly for years in the late 19th century, and religious broadcaster Aimee Semple McPherson's Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, of similar size.
Current conditions and statistics
In 2010, the Hartford Institute's database listed more than 1,300 such Protestant churches in the United States; according to that data, approximately 50 churches on the list had average attendance exceeding 10,000, with the highest recorded at 47,000 in average attendance. On one weekend in November 2015, around one in ten Protestant churchgoers in the US, or about 5 million people, attended service in a megachurch. 3,000 individual Catholic parishes have 2,000 or more attendants for an average Sunday Mass, but they are not called megachurches as that is a specifically Protestant term.
Globally, these large congregations are a significant development in Protestant Christianity. In the United States, the phenomenon has more than quadrupled in the past two decades. It has since spread worldwide. In 2007, five of the ten largest Protestant churches were in South Korea. The largest megachurch in the United States is Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas with more than 40,000 members every weekend and the current largest megachurch in the world is South Korea's Yoido Full Gospel Church, an Assemblies of God church, with more than 830,000 members as of 2007.
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