2005 H. Paul Douglass lecture: All creatures great and small: Megachurches in context
Why have very large Protestant churches proliferated in recent decades? I address this question by shifting attention from megachurches themselves to the overall size distribution of American Protestant churches, examining how and why that distribution has changed over time. This examination reveals a remarkably consistent pattern. In every denomination on which we have data, people are increasingly concentrated in the very largest churches, and this is true for small and large denominations, for conservative and liberal denominations, for growing and declining denominations. This trend began rather abruptly in the 1970s, with no sign of tapering off. Usual explanations of megachurch proliferation do not readily account for the concentration trend. I offer a new explanation: rising costs since the 1970s have made life increasingly difficult for smaller churches, and these difficulties have helped to push people into very large churches.
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